F&W Star Chef
Restaurant: Maurepas Foods (New Orleans)
Experience: Dante’s Kitchen (New Orleans)
What recipe are you most famous for?
Confit chicken. We cure it for 24 hours in a mixture of salt, thyme, chile, coriander and brown sugar, then we rinse it and cook it under whatever fat we are generating currently—usually duck or bacon fat.
What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
We’ll be be tracing a path back to less-exotic vegetables. I think we’re already seeing that somewhat—brussels sprouts, beets, sunchokes. I think carrots and broccoli are going to have their day again.
What is your favorite snack?
Leftover cheesy bread. My pastry chef makes a rustic loaf, and rolls lots of Gruyère and roasted garlic into it. They sell a lot and it takes a lot of work to make, so to be a good sport I don’t touch them until they’re a day old.
Who is your food mentor?
A chef I worked with for many years at Dante’s Kitchen, Eman Loubier. He was very, very serious about quality. Just like we do here, I learned that you pull the plug if you don’t like the ingredient that came in, or if something is wrong with a dish and you know it. Even if you don’t think anybody’s going to catch it, you’ve got to take it off.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. That’s a classic that I always go back to.
Do you have any pre- or post-shift rituals?
Before I come in, I’ve got to have everything: Glasses cleaned, pants rolled five times, matching socks. In my pockets: two pens, lighter, fully charged phone, work keys, house keys. And I always, always have a pocketknife. It’s a three and a half inch Kershaw spring-action blade. I’ve had it for years and years. It’s the everything blade. It can break down produce at the market so it can all go into the car. And I’m usually the only guy at day care who can cut a birthday cake.
Any food-related superstitions?
If it’s slow, I’ll definitely have someone take apart a large machine. I think it’s a good way to bait the kitchen gods into bringing people in.
What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
I have this lamp that my family really hates. I got it for myself on vacation in Mexico. It’s a little skeleton made out of spark plugs and gun parts and chains. It weighs like 70 pounds. I brought it down to this restaurant and everybody nixed it: “No, that doesn’t fit at all.” One day I will have the restaurant where Señor Gomez—I call him Señor Gomez—will go.