One ingredient you won't touch: Cats or dogs, which we fortunately don't have to deal with in this country. Other than that, probably nothing. I appreciate cutting a pig's head open, eating brains and scrambled eggs, and then making porchetta di testa out of the rest of the meat. We recently had a four-course lamb-offal staff meal, with braised tongue, liver and onions, mushroom-stuffed heart and kidney stew. I love experimenting with new and weird items, and aside from our furry pets, I'd be willing to try anything you put in front of me.
One ingredient you can't live without: Salts, butter and cheese.
Food trend you'd like to see more of: Korean flavors. Not just kimchi, but also great barbecue, noodle pots and hot pots.
Food trend you'd like to see disappear: The disappearance of molecular gastronomy would be awesome. Please, no more dusts, foams or fake caviar. When I was at the CIA, there were so many kids who were so enamored of the molecular gastronomy trend, even though they hadn't even begun to learn the basic fundamentals of cooking -- and that gave me a bad taste for the whole thing. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate the mad genius of Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal, but to me, molecular gastronomy has become a marketing scheme. When Adrià came to the CIA to do a lecture, he spoke about how you shouldn't be "playing around or experimenting" with food until you master and memorize the basics of cooking. Mastering the basics of cooking takes a lifetime, and I stress this point on a daily basis. The importance of simplicity, especially for someone my age, holds a lot of sway. Old-school is the best.
What dish would you love to put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell? Foie gras torchon, otherwise known as the almighty torchon, or the holy torchon. Earlier in my career, my chef and I would clean and roll foie together every week like clockwork. It was very much a bonding experience for us every time, not to mention something to look forward to the following week. I had it on the menu for a little while at Bocadillo, but unfortunately, I wasn't getting many orders, so I had to take it off. It would be great to serve beef tartare with a poached egg and brioche, but I'm not sure that would do all that well, either.
Favorite dish on your menu right now: The Philly cheesesteak, or the cheesesteak spring roll. We do an authentic Philly on Amaroso rolls from Philly with a choice of Whiz, provolone or American and wit' or wit'out fried onions. I smile every time I see a ticket that says "Whiz wit." This is exactly how it's served in Philly -- no mushrooms, no peppers, just meat, cheese and onions. The spring roll is sort of my homage to Philly on the dinner menu.
Most noteworthy meal you've ever eaten: It was at Adour, Alain Ducasse's restaurant in New York. I trained for two days there and then ate dinner the third night. My appetizer was sweetbread meunière with an egg purse, wild mushrooms and brioche; the entree was roasted Pennsylvania squab with salmis; and the dessert was an exotic vacherin and the most amazing dark-chocolate sorbet. I'm a sucker for sweets.