Celebrity chef who should shut up: Gordon Ramsay. He's a pretentious bastard, and I'd love to fight him. He can wear his futball cleats and bring his Michelin stars.
Greatest accomplishment as a chef: I chose when and how to take off my chef coat.
Biggest kitchen disaster: There have been so many over the years that it's difficult to say. Overcooked and undercooked steaks, burnt soups, broken sauces and ruined meals -- I've done them all. One time I knocked a crumb-filled toaster into a twenty-gallon stockpot of demi-glace; another time I put a Pyrex baking dish on a burner to hurry a gratin along; I gave myself campylobacter by eating some undercooked chicken once; I've burned and cut myself countless times -- hell, even other people, too; and I've been fired an embarrassing number of times. Really, every stupid, horrible mistake imaginable, I've done at least once. That said, I really feel like I learned to cook well by making every kitchen mistake possible and then living in fear of ever doing the same stupid thing again.
Biggest compliment you've ever received: One of our employees, Virginia Clarkson, told us that our boys made her want to have kids of her own.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? When I was a kid, my parents used to take my sister and me out for dinner, and while it wasn't a regular thing, they'd bring us along to nice restaurants. I remember eating at El Tovar in the Grand Canyon when I was about eight, and one time, we ate at a super-fancy, old-school French restaurant in Arizona, where I ordered the beef Wellington, and it was a complete revelation: a perfectly cooked tenderloin with mushroom duxelle and a perfect ring of puff pastry around it, and half the plate was sauced with a dark-brown demi sauce, the other half with a pale veloute. There was a laurel wreath painted into each half, with the opposite sauce ringing the roast. Then they had a bizarre vacuum-fed coffee service and petit fours on a vertical platter. It was the first time I realized how astonishing good food could be.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? We have palates for old-world wine and beer. Karin is the expert; she has a much better sense of smell than I do. I've learned to let her shop for wine and taste it in restaurants. I love Belgian beers, and French wines are my favorites: red and rosé in the winter, white in the summer. Grenache is the most underrated grape in the grove.
What's your favorite knife? Everybody talks about their Japanese extension of their hand. I use a nine-inch Masamoto carbon-steel gyutou that's as sharp as sin.
One book that every chef should read: Silver Spoon, because it's been the best-selling cookbook in Italy for the last fifty years.
Best culinary tip for a home cook: Get rid of your non-stick Teflon pans. Use steel and get it ripping hot.