Cafe Society

Chef and Tell, part two: Jorge de la Torre on vegetarians, knives and offal

Page 3 of 3

You're at the market. What do you buy two of? Greek yogurt with honey. I'm addicted to that stuff and the whole family likes it, so I need to make sure we're always stocked.

Weirdest student request: We had a vegetarian student who didn't want to be around meat or participate in the meat-cutting class. I told her that she didn't have to eat it, but that she needed to know how to cook it and at least be around it. She didn't get it. I've had other students say that they're deathly allergic to flour, and then they want to take the pastry and baking program. And then last year, I had a student who was completely freaked out by knives; he'd quake and quiver whenever he had a knife in his hands. He's no longer in the program. If you're afraid to use knives, you may want to think about another profession.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: At the night market in Taiwan, I had cobra heart with a shot of its blood in some liquor. It was oddly sweet.

Guiltiest food pleasure? People are always amazed at how much I love Pop-Tarts -- specifically cinnamon and brown sugar or strawberry. That's my problem: I'm shameless and guiltless. I should work on that and shed some pounds.

Best culinary tip for a home cook: Keep it simple and remember that if you're having guests over, it's about the general experience of getting together -- and not about whether the fish was cooked perfectly. Also, give some other vegetables in the store a try. I feel bad when I see parsnips, rutabagas and chayote hanging out there all on their own.

If you could cook for one famous chef, dead or alive, who would it be? Ferran Adrià. He seems so interesting, and I'd make sure to serve the simplest of foods, because I'm pretty sure that's what he enjoys eating on his day off -- some cheese, olives, some salumi, a properly cooked chicken, nice bread, good beer and wine, all served at a leisurely pace.

Favorite celebrity chef: Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, the two fat ladies who are getting play again on the Cooking Channel. They're fantastic. My wife and I are also big Nigella Lawson fans; she makes it okay to eat what you want, and I always learn something new from Alton Brown.

Celebrity chef who should shut up: I used to bristle at Bobby Flay, but now I kind of respect the fact that he puts himself out there in his show and loses gracefully. That said, he's still kind of obnoxious.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson