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Interview with Best New Chef Jason Wilson

Other cooking jobs. "When I decided to open my own place, I took a page from Charlie Trotter and started catering to potential customers. I also worked for a couple families as a personal chef and I was an on-call chef to three or four wineries. In the meantime, we built ourselves an espresso bar. It was a very hectic time."

Why he became a chef. "My dad was in advertising, so he took me out to dinner a lot, and I ate things like sweetbreads, lobster with gnocchi. I wanted to get a job where I could eat that kind of food, and have money to buy a new surfboard."

On opening Crush, which is in a 100-plus-year-old house. "My wife, Nicole, and I had to strip the house down to its bare bones; it was a crash course in how to run lighting and electricity and how to be a plumber."

Benefits of living upstairs from your restaurant. "You can just run downstairs if you're hungry and grab some crab and avocado. Every day is like Christmas. But now it's different, we live a mile away."

Most memorable cooking experience. "When I was a caterer, a client took me to Alaska to cook on an 86-foot yacht. I brought stuff to go full bore—truffles, a pasta machine, and we pulled spider crabs and Dungeness crabs right from the water. I remember standing on the end of the boat, grilling lamb chops and looking at the Alaskan mountains."

Ingredient he won't touch. Dried oregano. "My mom would make spaghetti in a crock pot and she'd put excessive—and I mean excessive—amounts of oregano in it. It permanently scarred me as a youngster. It's even hard for me to use fresh oregano now, I have to go to marjoram."

Favorite things about Seattle. The ingredients and the camaraderie among chefs in the area. "A few weeks ago, one of my dishwashers was out. My friend sent a guy right over from his restaurant in a taxi."

Most coveted piece of equipment. Induction burners. "And an immersion circulator would be nice."

Advice to future cooks. "Work hard. And go to law school, too, just in case."

Published July 2006
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