Joshua Skenes

video Video Best New Chef Joshua Skenes.

video Video Joshua Skenes describes what it means to be named a Best New Chef.

Born 1979; Jacksonville, FL.

Education French Culinary Institute, New York City.

Experience Ambrosia, Boston; Chez TJ, Mountain View, CA

First cooking memories "My family has pictures of me making mud pies when I was four with a chef's hat and an apron on. I don't want to use the cliché, 'my grandmother was a great cook...' but she was. So I had that food bug early."

On his first job "When I was 15, I got a job as a dishwasher in a Japanese place in Jacksonville that was straight out of Kitchen Confidential. The tempura cook was a smart-ass young kid; the older line cooks would dip him in the garbage can outside. The servers were wrestlers from China. After work, we'd go out back and wrestle and make bets on who would win. They'd basically kick all our butts, and I had been practicing martial arts since I was six years old. After that I was essentially hooked on kitchen life."

Cooking obsessions Fire and aging ingredients. "In Japan, they age fish. We all think fish should be eaten straight out of the water; it's not always true. Hanging game birds is another great method of preservation. We accidentally aged turnips from our garden in the walk-in, and they became a concentrated version of themselves."

Memorable Cooking Experience "One of the first things that I cooked in a fire was a leek. I gently turned it in the ash, and it got caramelized on the outside. I sliced it and put it on plate with amazing olive oil, and local sea salt from Monterey, and Meyer lemon juice. I ate it and thought, This is out of control. The way fire pulls depth of flavor out is magical."

Childhood cooking story "When I was about nine, my family sent me to summer camp in North Carolina. I went on a long hike and saw a water moccasin. I fished the snake out of the water, cut his head off, took out the poison sac, filleted the snake cooked it up and fed it to the camp. I can't believe I didn't poison everybody."

Guilty Pleasure Ice cream. "I really like the cucumber and peach ice creams at JP Licks in Boston. And the salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery [in San Francisco].

After-hours hangout Vietnam Restaurant. "It's a grungy little Vietnamese hole in the wall that's open really late. I get the No. 25 with two fried eggs on top: Grilled chicken over rice with pickled daikon, extra fish sauce and pickled chiles."

Future of Saison "We're moving Saison, maybe to the Financial District. We're going to make the hearth three times bigger; the Molteni stove will be right next to hearth. We'll have all these contraptions in the fire: things like a homemade metal ficelle (string) that we can thread through squabs for roasting. I plan on having a signed lease in six months."

Favorite food show After Hours with Daniel, a show that chronicled the late night adventures of New York City's renowned Daniel Boulud (an F&W Best New Chef 1988).

Favorite cookbook "I don't really get to read cookbooks these days, my hands are in the dirt so much."