Previous culinary experience — I’ve been with the Buddha Bar company for almost three years. I was out in Las Vegas for about two-and-a-half years with another restaurant at the Palms resort. Before that, I opened up an Asian fusion restaurant in [a casino hotel], the Beau Rivage, in Biloxi [Miss.]. Before that, I was with Roy’s Restaurants for about five years.
When I’m not eating my own food — I like tapas. And, of course, I like Italian, because I’m Italian. But I really eat everything. Octopus, sea urchin — you know, [you’ve] got to try it at least once. And most of the time I eat Hot Pockets at my house, since I’m working long hours and cooking all day.
Food I cannot stand — I like everything, as long as it’s cooked properly. I can’t stand well-done steak.
Greatest cooking influence — Masaharu Morimoto. He’s great. I love his books. I’ve never eaten at his restaurants, but I’d love to.
Strangest cuisine I’ve tried — Durian fruit, or “stink fruit.” It tasted just like it smelled — rotten fish.
Must-have cooking utensil — Masamoto 10-inch chef’s knife. They’re made like Japanese swords — super sharp on one side. They only make 12 a day; that’s how much it takes. I think they bend and hammer it like 300 times.
Worst kitchen disaster — One time I was working at a Roy’s restaurant, and one of the kids rolling napkins somehow hit and broke the glass around the fire extinguisher. It set off all the sprinklers, but they spray this kind of white extinguisher fluid. That was it. No more food came out of the kitchen. No one ate. They all got comps for free meals if they came back. And it cost about $1,000 to refill the sprinklers. That was awful.
Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — Dirty aprons and dirty towels. Also, I’m pretty anal when setting things up. When someone is setting up their station, things have to match. Either all plastic or all metal pans. I don’t know why that is. I just like it that way. It needs to look beautiful.
Three people I’d never want to see in the kitchen — I know mostly good cooks, but there was this one guy, a general manager I worked with a long time ago when I was just getting into cooking. We’ll call him “Tony.” He did some stuff in a kitchen I’d never want to see — messing with people’s food, messing with the owners’ food. I remember the owners would come in sometimes and just yell about stuff. Then they would have Tony cook food for them and he would add some “extra ingredients.” One time he made a pepperoni pizza and rubbed a pepperoni on the bottom of his shoe.
Strangest things cooked — Duck tongue
Age — 31