Cafe Society

1515 Restaurant exec chef Chuck James on Miracle Fruit, James Beard and cheeseburgers

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Six words to describe your food: Contemporary, eclectic, cutting-edge, global, fresh and sexy.

Ten words to describe you: Tall glass of water, blunt, goofy, passionate, innovative, genuine and radical.

Culinary inspirations: Thomas Keller, for his reach for perfection, and all the chefs -- the guys that I've worked with over the years -- who have given me good advice and guidance. The Fat Duck and Alinea cookbooks inspired me to pursue more cutting-edge techniques and to delve into molecular gastronomy. And springtime in California gave me the inspiration to get my hands on things that are fresh and in season.

Greatest accomplishment as a chef: Being invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City is by far my greatest accomplishment. It's a huge deal to be a part of that culinary movement, and Beard is a chef that I've followed for a long time and whose books I've always read and studied.

Favorite ingredient: Good European butter -- the one that has a high fat content. Cooking with butter is cooking with love, and the cream and high fat content makes such a big difference in my cooking. It also makes a huge difference in creating great flavors.

Best recent food find: Miracle Fruit. It's still relatively new, so not a whole lot of people know about it, but I love how it's such a tongue trip and the way it messes with people's heads. There are so many fun and interesting things that you can do with it, but it's expensive, so it's not something I have on my menu -- not yet. But I'm all over it; it's awesome stuff

Most overrated ingredient: Dandelion greens, because they're so unbearably bitter, and microgreens, because they're so overused as garnish. So many chefs seem to think that if the plate needs something, they may as well throw some microgreens on there, but to me, it just says, "Hey, I'm just another lemon twist." Don't use them unless they actually add something of substance to the plate.

Most underrated ingredient: Love. If you forget to put love into your food, you're not cooking. And fresh thyme, because it makes love to the food that it's with; it's wonderful in sauces and has a great nose on it. Chives are underrated, too, and they shouldn't be, because they're delicate enough that you can do so much with them.

Favorite local ingredient and where you get it: Fresh arugula. I harvest the arugula from my rooftop garden daily. It's part of my morning routine.

One food you detest: Rocky Mountain oysters. I'm just not a big fan of balls.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson