Chef 101: Enzo Fargione

With Enzo Fargione of Teatro Goldoni

Previous culinary experience — I attended culinary school in Turin, Italy. While the rest of my friends were playing soccer, I worked in local restaurants, mostly peeling potatoes or making pasta. It was a chance to learn. When an opportunity arose to open a restaurant with a contact in San Diego, I took it. I was disappointed when we served mostly spaghetti and lasagna. So, I moved to D.C. when a former teacher called to say Galileo’s was looking for a chef. There, I gained a reputation locally and nationally. I also opened five Raddichio restaurants. For an opportunity in West Palm Beach [Calif.], I sold the D.C. restaurants; however, I didn’t stay long. I cooked for a while in James Beard House in New York and then came here.

When I’m not eating my own food — I usually eat out. I like Mexican food when it’s done well. Nice and light. I also like Chinese and Indian food, or a simple grilled steak.

Born and raised — Turin, Italy.

Food I cannot stand — Probably fast food or food that tastes processed. I don’t understand taking a fresh baby spinach leaf and processing it so that it becomes a long shoestring.

Greatest cooking influence — My mom. Early Sunday mornings, when I was 14 or 15, I would awake to the most wonderful aroma. She was preparing the traditional Sunday meal. I was always curious about what she was cooking.

Views on cooking TV shows — I support it. I’ve done a few things myself on local TV shows. The Food Network has become a must for the average housewife.

Strangest cuisine I’ve tried — The one you refuse to eat [laughs]. When I was in Italy, I ate a very old Tuscan recipe, from the 1400s. There were lots of spices, which preserved food in days before refrigerators. I tasted it, and didn’t like it. I tasted it again to remember it, so that I wouldn’t attempt the same combination of spices.

Must-have cooking utensil — I would say a spoon. With a spoon, you can hold water, stir, pick up dry powders. With a fork, you can only do so much.

Thoughts on Washington’s food scene — When I first came, there were only three up-scale restaurants. Now Washington is saturated with restaurants. It’s almost impossible to have a bad meal here.

Worst kitchen disaster — To preface this, I’m very meticulous, and people say I’m a pain in the butt to work with. When I was doing a charity dinner in Miami, a waiter knocked over an entire tray of appetizers, and I had to come up with something else on the spot. It was a disaster for the waiter when he returned to the kitchen.

Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — Sloppiness. Not caring. If you fill a glass half full every day, and then one day only fill it a quarter full, that shows you don’t care. Put your head into it.

Three people I’d never want to see in the kitchen — My mom, my teacher and a journalist. My mom cooks completely differently than I do, and out of respect for my teacher, I wouldn’t want him working under me.

Strangest things cooked — Duck testicles and tuna sperm.

Age — 39

Marital status — Single.