Jason Franey

Best New Chef 2011: Jason Franey

Photo © Brian Canlis

F&W Star Chef

Chef: Jason Franey

Restaurants: Restaurant 1833 (Monterey, CA)

Experience: Canlis (Seattle, WA); Campton Place (San Francisco); Eleven Madison Park (NYC)

Who taught you how to cook? What is the most important thing you learned from that person?
My basic foundation came from working at the Breakers when I was quite young. That’s where I learned the fine dining foundations and banqueting.

What was the first dish you ever cooked yourself? And what is the best dish for a neophyte cook to try?
The first thing I remember making was when I was in middle school and I baked a streusel. I did it all by myself and surprised my mom when she got home.

I judge chefs and myself by how we cook soups. That’s a great thing for a neophyte. A home cook should learn to cook a soup properly: sweating the vegetables and onions and building a great base. That’s the ground-breaking technique.

Who is your food mentor? What is the most important thing you learned from him/her?
Daniel Humm really molded me into how I’ll cook for the rest of my career. His style is so European, simple but sophisticated at the same time. The flavors were clean; the style was very European; and I just adapted to that.

Favorite cookbook of all time?
Fredy Giradet’s Recipes from a Master of French Cuisine. It’s timeless and Daniel used to work for him. He’s the godfather of haute cuisine.

What's the most important skill you need to be a great cook?
Organization is the key to everything. You can’t do anything without being organized. It’s what I teach all my sous chefs: Be organized and think about it before you do it.

Is there a culinary skill or type of dish that you wish you were better at?
Macarons. I don’t do them often. When I do do them, it’s a disaster. It’s a very hard technique to learn and that’s why I have a pastry chef.

What is the best bang-for-the-buck ingredient and how do you use it?
Kale. I use it for smoothies. My girlfriend and I make smoothies with banana, kale, a scoop of protein powder and chia seeds.

What is your current food obsession?
I eat pho twice a week. I love pickles too.

Name restaurants you are dying to go to and why.
Restaurant de L'Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, Switzerland, which used to be Giradet. It’s the closest thing to eating Giradet’s food.

I also really want to go to Magnus Nilsson’s Fäviken Magasinet. They’re doing really neat things there. With the woods and the farm to forage and harvest from, they have incredible resources to create new, innovative dishes.

Best bang-for-the-buck food trip—where would you go and why?
I want to go to Vietnam very badly. I’ve never been there.

What do you consider your other talent(s) besides cooking?
I like to think I’m a good snowboarder, but I’m really not. I do love it, though. I play racquetball.

If you could invent a restaurant for your next (imaginary) project, what would it be?
It would be small in scale, very farm to table. I’d love to work on a farm in the middle of nowhere and cook off the land. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s every chef’s dream to grow the food, cook the food, take care of the food and come full circle.

If you were facing an emergency and could only take one backpack of supplies, what would you bring, and what would you make?
I’m not sure how I would do it, but my vision would be to cook pho. I’d somehow pack beef bones, onions, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, a lot of water and a huge pot. I’d make a big pot of soup for everybody to eat.

What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
I think in five years there are going to be so many new techniques for fermenting. Noma has done things with fish that have never been done before. You’re taking rotting food and making it delicious. It’s pretty amazing.

What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up? What is your favorite snack?
I eat pickles that I’ve made myself. I’m doing a lot of fermentation right now. So the easiest ones are dill pickles with cucumbers, but I’m also doing kimchi and sauerkraut. It makes your house stink.

Best new store-bought ingredient/product, and why?
Herdez Salsa. It’s a canned salsa that’s one of the best you can get, unless you make it yourself.

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