Food & Wine: Chip Roman

Chip Roman

F&W Star Chef

Chef: Chip Roman

Restaurants: Blackfish (Conshohocken, PA); Mica and Ela (Philadelphia)

Experience: Vetri and Le Bec Fin, both in Philadelphia, PA

Education: Drexel University

Who taught you how to cook? What is the most important thing you learned from him or her?
My grandmothers taught me a lot. My maternal grandmother was great with desserts; she often made lemon meringue pie, and I remember her showing me how to whip egg whites properly. My paternal grandmother was from the Ukraine and made everything from scratch. She would always tell me to take my time.

My mother and father are also great cooks and I often watched them.

What was the first dish you ever cooked yourself? And what is the best dish for a neophyte cook to try?
My mother said it was a stew I made out of filet mignon when I was 11 or 12. I'm not sure how it tasted, as it was long ago, but she always brings that up in conversation as the first dish.

As for neophyte cooks, I think roasting a whole fish would be good. It's not very hard to do and results are great. Use a slender fish like branzino or trout because the cooking time will be more even and quicker. When the dorsal fin pulls right out, you know the fish is done.

Who is your food mentor? What is the most important thing you learned from him/her?
Georges Perrier. The most important things I learned from him are discipline, patience and organization, plus seasoning and tasting, always. He also taught me to trust my instincts and not to follow the crowd. I worked with him for a long time and still talk and sometimes work with him weekly.

Favorite cookbook of all time.
Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine.

What's the most important skill you need to be a great cook?
I think being patient is a learned skill. Patience is important for things like waiting for the pan to heat up, letting the meat rest, waiting for the extra few seconds for the water to boil. These are little details that make a big difference.

What is your current food obsession?
Sea buckthorn. I have been using it a lot to make purees for foie gras. It’s very good with carrots for soup, jams and marmalades. It taste similar to Tang.

Name three restaurants you are dying to go to in the next year and why?
Atera, because a former employee is there and I want to see how he has matured. Vedge, which is run by a great couple and has been on my list. As I get older, I think about vegetables more.

Alinea, because I’ve heard it’s quite the experience.

Best bang-for-the-buck food trip—where would you go and why?
My hometown Philadelphia has great affordable offerings, and lots of great worldly cuisine.

What do you consider your other talent(s) besides cooking?
I'm pretty good at fishing, and I do it often.

What ingredient will people be talking about in 5 years?
It’s a guess, but celtuce. I have been seeing it more and more frequently.

What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up? What is your favorite snack?
Pickles, crunchy and sour. And I love Utz's extra dark sourdough pretzels with French’s yellow mustard. Who has time to make their own pretzels? I want to meet that person.

Do you have any food superstitions or pre- or post- shift rituals?
When the team is stressed or I sense some smiling is needed, I will often read directly from Marco Pierre White’s White Heat and apply some of his quotes to our situation. That is typically a winner for morale, and something I have done on many nights.

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