What's your fave ingredient right now?
Salt, because it rocks, get it: rock salt, salt rocks. Yes, it can be overused, but the majority of the time it is underused and the food is just flat. Seasoning a dish properly is the number one factor I look for when hiring new cooks. Technique and speed can be taught.
Do you have any tattoos?
Brennan's of Houston
No, my mom would kill me, plus needles aren't my thing.
Can you recommend a cookbook?
The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson. I have no idea if the recipes work since I hardly ever cook from a recipe, but I love reading cookbooks and this is a good read.
Where do you eat on your day off?
I used to eat at Mexicatessen on Crosstimbers until it closed at the end of 2006. They had the best chili con carne with tamales and beef enchiladas -- 1950's Tex-Mex.
No, where do you really eat on your day off?
I love Barbecue Inn; I've been eating there since I was born. It has been there since the '40s or '50s. Don't ask me how the barbecue is -- I only eat their fried food. The chicken-fried steak and fried chicken are great.
What are you drinking lately?
Pinot noir from the Santa Lucia area, especially "Gary's Vineyard." The weather on the Central Coast makes great pinots.
What's your fave food TV show?
I like Good Eats, but I started watching Gordon Ramsey on the BBC, and his shows are so much better on the BBC than his American shows. They really have good information.
What's your culinary philosophy?
Cook simple -- that doesn't mean cook without any thought, but don't overdo it. I'm not trying to show everybody how smart or talented I am. I believe in taking the best ingredients and doing very little to them so the true flavor of the food comes through.
What's the next big thing going to be?
I think that local products from known origins will be the next big thing for the public; it has been a big thing at Brennan's since 2000. We go out of our way to find farmers and ranchers to raise foods for us. I believe that you have to get out and meet the farmers and make trips to the farms and see what is really being done on the land.
What are you sick of?
Molecular gastronomy -- where every dish has some chemical added to it to make it a solid when it should be a liquid or something. It's crazy. I think it has great "wow" factor and was cool once, but it certainly is no way to dine. It never really caught on here in Houston.
What irks you?
My biggest pet peeve is people that are closed-minded about food. I wish people would try something different when dining out. It is great to have a favorite dish at a restaurant, but maybe mix in a new appetizer or entrée every now and again. I know that you hated lamb when your mother overcooked it, but the racks that I purchase are amazing. Hell, you might just end up with a new favorite dish.
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Who's your fave musician?
Jimmy Buffett, and no, I don't wear a parrot hat at concerts. I like to listen to music and just relax after hustling in the kitchen all week.
What's different about Houston food?
I think the Houston food scene is underappreciated in the national media. There are so many different cuisines in the city, and all we are known for is smoked brisket. Our great ethnic cuisines and fine dining establishments give NYC a run for the money, with the added bonus of a little Southern hospitality.