Video Best New Chef Bowman Brown.
Video Best New Chef Viet Pham.
Born (BB) 1982; Mesa, AZ. (VP) 1979; a refugee camp in Malaysia. Raised (VP) Carol Stream, IL, outside of Chicago. "My parents were boat people from Vietnam. I got to the US when I was about five months old."
Education (BB) Atlantic Culinary Academy; Dover, NH. (VP) California Culinary Academy, San Francisco.
Other studies (BB) Food Science; Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
Other work experience (VP) Home-loan officer for Washington Mutual bank; support technician at a Bay Area software company.
Experience (BB) The Dunaway Restaurant, Portsmouth, NH; Gary Danko, San Francisco; 231 Ellsworth, San Mateo, CA. (VP) Fifth Floor, San Francisco. "After [Fifth Floor chef and F&W Best New Chef 2002] Laurent Gras left San Francisco, I decided to go back into banking."
Early influences (BB) "My family had a cattle ranch, and my mom had an enormous garden that I tended to. We had a grocery store in town, but a lot of what we ate was what we grew—a lot of meals started with, 'Go out in the garden and pick it, and we'll cook it.' Looking back, it was an ideal romantic situation."
Favorite cookbook (BB) A Chef in Provence, by Edouard Loubet, who has an eponymous restaurant in Bonnieux, France. "He has a way of expressing nature through his cuisine that I really identify with. Previously it was always about the technique, but bringing that sense of place is what I identify with most now. It matters. But it can be difficult in Utah; for one thing, we don't have a very long growing season."
Equipment obsession (BB) His blender. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't use my blender. I use it more than anyone in the kitchen. For every dish I make, I find something that has to go in the blender; the sauce, something to finish the dish, something."
Ingredient Obsession (BB) "I'm fascinated by things that grow wild in Utah: chickweed [a green], storksbill [an edible flower], wild geranium, miner's lettuce, watercress. There's a really interesting wild hyssop that grows around here. I serve it with lamb at the restaurant."
Favorite wine (BB) "I don't drink; I'm a Mormon. But I know a lot about wine for someone who doesn't drink it."
Ingredient fatigue (BB) Pork belly. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really getting tired of pork belly. Every time I go to a restaurant that serves it, I end up eating it. And then I say, 'I've really got to stop it.'"
Advice to future cooks (BB) Be well rounded. "After you get to a certain point as a cook, its not all about being in the kitchen—its about art, and reading, and then you feel more inspired as you go to work."
How he got into the food business (VP) "My parents moved to California to start a catering business. Seeing how hard they worked—waking up at 3 a.m., working late—I said, 'No way I'm going into that world.' But then I checked out CCA and decided to go."
Memorable cooking experience (VP) "Chef Gras would always say, 'Use your head.' I would get offended. Then one day I realized, I should think about the way I'm sous-videing the pork belly. Chef Gras looked at me and said, 'Wow, you've started cooking with your head.'"
Favorite childhood dishes (VP) Banh xeo—Vietnamese crèpes—made with shrimp and pork, and bun bo Hue, a central-Vietnamese beef noodle soup. "It's like pho but a lot more rich, a lot more spicy. My mom makes the best version of both of them."
Favorite kitchen tool (VP) His egg topper. "If our egg topper were to break, we'd really be screwed. Diners get a series of amuse bouches, including soft scrambled eggs with maple syrup and sherry cream served in the cleaned-out shells. The egg topper cuts the tops off nicely. Without it, it would take us days to complete the 30 or 40 eggs we need every night."
Guilty pleasure (VP) Sour candy. "My friends and I just bought $30 worth of sour candies and ate them all. It was a variety: sour gummy bears, Sour Patch Kids. Anything sour we could get our hands on."
Favorite wine under $20 (VP) Louis Latour Marsannay.
After-hours hangout (VP) Beerhive Pub. "Utah is known as the Beehive state; that's where the name comes from. It's kind of chic but has a tavern feel. On weekends, it's where you see other restaurant people."
Favorite food blog (VP) ulteriorepicure.com. "This guy, he must be loaded; all he does is eat and blog. Believe it or not, he's based out of Kansas City."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.