F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Simon Palms Place, KGB (Las Vegas); L.A. Market (Los Angeles), Simon AC (Atlantic City), Simon Mansion
Experience: Lutèce, Le Côte Basque, Le Lavandou, Lafayette (New York)
Education: Culinary Institute of America
What’s your signature dish?
Tuna dynamite: raw tuna with rice on both sides and crab aioli on top. It’s put on a broiler and glazed, and the rice warms up but the tuna’s still raw. So you get crunchiness and softness.
What’s the first dish you made yourself?
Chicken cacciatore, from a recipe in the newspaper. I was about 15, and was already working at Little Caesar’s, so I was already into food. The thing I found fascinating about it was following the recipe. I felt really great, like I’d accomplished something, but I created a huge mess, using every pan in the house.
Who are your mentors?
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a mentor as well as a friend, and he’s always searching for new ideas and so inspiring. André Soltner is very humble and really understands the business, and I learned by watching how he handled everything at Lutèce. Jean Morel was very big on discipline and doing things exactly the same way every day, and he taught me how to butcher meat and fish. Jean-Jacques Rachou was like a machine of high–end food.
Best-bang-for-the-buck food trip?
Thailand. In Bangkok, every night eating out is endless, and it’s some of the best food you’ll ever have. The places I like best are Lemongrass, Cabbages & Condoms (that is the actual name), Celadon and Baan Khanitha.
If you could invent an imaginary restaurant, what would it be like?
In a tree house. You could go up and sit there, and it would be very relaxing. I’d serve natural products, everything that grew around the tree house.
Best new store-bought product?
Synergy organic raw kombucha.
What’s your favorite snack?
I’m addicted to dark chocolate, and I’ll eat whatever’s organic that I can get my hands on. I prefer pure chocolate, but I’m OK nuts or flavors. My brother recently sent me a selection of Amedei chocolates from Madagascar, Jamaica and Ecuador. I also like John Kelly chocolates and Vosges chocolate.