By Kris Kitto - 05/06/09 05:50 PM EDT
Previous culinary experience — After college I came back to D.C. — I’m a D.C. native. I got a job working at the old Galileo with Roberto Donna and Todd Grey, and then I left Galileo and opened Equinox with Todd, and worked with him for about four and a half years. I did a couple of other projects with him. In 2004, I took over Circle Bistro; that’s in Foggy Bottom in the One Washington Circle Hotel. I was there for four years. And in the last year and a half, I also ran another restaurant called Notti Bianche.
Most of the time, if I’m home, I’m still cooking. That’s the deal; that’s how I get to keep my wife. I told her she could stop cooking.
Born and raised —I was born in Georgetown Hospital, but I grew up in Potomac [Md.] and Rockville [Md.] my whole life.
Food I cannot stand — Eggs. Hardboiled eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs — can’t stand them. I don’t know why. Until the time I was 4, I would eat piles and piles of eggs with ketchup, and the way my mom describes it, one day I just stopped. We make do; I eat a lot of scrapple. Hollandaise sauce — OK, custard — sure, mayonnaise — that’s different.
Greatest cooking influence — You pull from so many diverse places. I’d probably have to say Todd Grey. He gave me my first shot in a big-time restaurant when I had almost no experience.
Views on cooking TV shows — They are what they are. I know that’s kind of a cop-out answer. The little things for someone that doesn’t cook professionally can be incredibly valuable. When Mario Batali had his first show, that was a fantastic cooking show. There was so much information going on.
I wish people would watch cooking shows less and actually cook more. It seems to me that everybody’s pressed for time now, and everybody’s looking for a short cut, but the reality is there are very few shortcuts that are worthwhile.
Strangest cuisine I’ve tried — When I was in college, I was in — believe it or not — a vegetarian health food co-op, which was insane to begin with. We had a friend of mine who was a military brat. His mom was Filipino. He had this weird quasi-Filipino- Polynesian thing going on. So it was experimental cooking to the max.
Must-have cooking utensil — I have a $5 knife that I bought in Chinatown, and it’s extremely light, but it’s razor-sharp — and it only cost $5. You use it for three months, and you buy a new one. It’s a squared-off cleaver shape.
Thoughts on Washington’s food scene — In the 11 years I’ve been cooking in D.C., the number of quality restaurants that have opened has just been phenomenal. I think D.C. is attracting more talented cooks and keeping them. When I first started as a line cook, the idea was to get experience, and everybody was going to go to New York. Now not everybody thinks they’re going to New York. As long as we have really great cooks who keep opening really personal restaurants … I think it’s great.
Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — I’ve got about 7,000. Two things: I hate it when people can’t see fit to be at least polite to one another when they’re working. I really don’t care for an uncivil kitchen. The other thing is dirty side towels just strewn about. If I see a pile of towels from someone working, I freak out.
Three people I’d never want to see in the kitchen — Everybody’s welcome in my kitchen. I have to play the political answer. Otherwise, Johnny Knoxville from “Jackass.” He annoys the snot out of me. That’s pretty much it. Oh, David Caruso, the bad actor. I would not want to see him in my kitchen.
Strangest things cooked —I once tried to make a mushroom-stuffed tofu in a smoked barbecue sauce, when I was younger, for vegetarian friends — when I had some. Now they don’t talk to me, but that’s OK. It was extremely amateurish and not well-thought-out at all. We all went to Taco Bell later for bean burritos.
Age — 34
Marital status — Married, Leslie; three children.