By Betsy Rothstein - 12/09/08 06:19 PM EST
Previous culinary experience —“They’re pretty vast. I’ve cooked in France. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid in Miami. My aunts had Cuban cafeterias. I would spend my summers there.
“My father is Cuban, so we spent a lot of time with family in Miami. My mother is Peruvian and an amazing cook. My mom has an acute palate and she passed it onto me at a young age.
“My main cooking inspiration, however, is my grandfather. He was a baker in Cuba. He really knew what the essence of cooking was all about, which involved countryside cooking. He had this innate understanding of what was good. He pretty much raised me, and his whole life centered around food. He’s my biggest hero. I live and work in this industry every day to honor him. People think this is glamorous, but it’s hard work.”
When I’m not eating my own food — “I really like the simplicity in food. I really like burger joints that are popping up, like Good Stuff Eatery. I’m a big fan of straight ethnic food — Thai, Vietnamese. One of my very favorite chefs is Mario Batali, who runs my favorite [Spanish] restaurant, Casa Mono, in New York City.”
Born and raised — Born in Fairfax, Va.; raised in Falls Church, Va.
Food I cannot stand — “Honestly, I hate inauthentic food, Olive Garden kind of stuff. I have yet to eat at an Indian restaurant I like.”
Training — “I studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I lived and worked and studied there just over a year. I’ve worked as a chef at Ceiba, Marcel’s, Ardeo, 701, the Tabard Inn and D.C. Coast.”
Views on cooking TV shows — “I enjoy watching the Food Network. Sometimes you see it get a little watered-down. Sometimes it should be more challenging.”
Must-have cooking utensil — “My hands.”
Thoughts on Washington’s food scene — “I’m really excited about it. There’s kind of a changing of the guard going on, chefs coming in from out of town and lifting the bar from what it used to be. Having that talent around you lifts all the talent and separates the good from the mediocre.”
Worst kitchen disaster — “I’ve had my gas go out. I’ve had my hood system go down. It was during a thunderstorm with lightning. I had to scale the outside wall on a fire escape ladder. In the middle of torrential raining I was putting a piece of rubber back on track. I thought I was going to get electrocuted. One time I had to stop a knife fight between a cook and a dishwasher. I got in between them. I didn’t want anyone dying on my watch.”
Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — “Chefs who don’t cook. Chefs who get to a certain level sometimes just delegate. I think a chef should always be cooking. Being a cook is a constant evolution. When you stop and just start telling people what to do you just become stagnant. A close second is lack of inspiration or chefs who just do it for the money.”
Three people I’d never want to see in the kitchen — “Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly would be kicked out immediately; Rush Limbaugh and Mahatma Gandhi.”
Three people I’d always want in my kitchen — U2’s Bono, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Jimi Hendrix.
Strangest things cooked — “Anticucho. It’s skewered beef heart. It’s delicious.”
Age — 33
Marital status — Married to wife, Suzanne. The couple has an infant son named Julian.