This week's "Hail to the Chef" is Ryan Rose, head chef at Zócalo Restaurant in midtown Sacramento.
I met Ryan a few weeks ago when I spoke at Zócalo on the Importance of Blogging. I was happy he agreed to participate and answer my questions:
1. What made you want to become a chef?
I love what food does to people. Brings them together and makes them happy. I want to be a part of that.
2. Where did you receive your training?
I started in Spain while I was actually there to study the language. From there I did a 4 month training in Calabria as well as Lago di Como, Italy. No schooling, just passion.
3. Who have you worked with that you have really admired?
Alberto Riboldi. He was my connection in Italy and still mentors me as much as he can now but through facebook. Also Davey Hernandez. He's worked for Ernesto for over 16 years. If you're going to war on the line during a big rush you want Davey on your side.
4. What is a typical day like for you at Zócalo?
Always starts with a cappuccino at Old Soul. Prep in the morning, get our butts kicked at lunch rush. Get another coffee at Old Soul followed by three more cups at the restaurant. Really get our butts kicked at dinner rush. Do the ordering. 12 hours later I'm walking out the door already planning what the next day has ahead. Oh yeah, restaurant nightmares at night don't let me get much sleep.
5. What are/who are your primary cooking influences?
Imagine a small food stand in a bustling food market in Mexico. Quick hands, meats boiling in chorizo fat, fresh tortillas, food that's addicting. That's my influence.
6. What are your favorite and least favorite foods to prepare?
Although I can't get enough of Mexican cuisine, I love Italian food- the fresh pastas and simple ingredients all put together to make an incredible meal. Doesn't get much better than that. No least.
7. Please tell me about your most overwhelming moment in the kitchen.
Ohh, I remember my first Mother's Day brunch I did. Brunch I said, you know eggs cooked 5 different ways?? It started at 9am and didn't end til 10pm. We were inexperienced and had too many options on the menu and didn't seat properly. Let's just say an ice cold Corona never tasted sweeter after that day!
8. Who are your favorite chefs or famous chefs?
Emeril Lagasse- he's a total character
Mario Batali- Incredible talent
Rick Bayless- A chef with an incredible story that he tells on a plate
9. White wine or red wine? Do you have a favorite wine varietal/label?
Herencia Mexicana Reposado Tequila- Is that an option. Sorry here we drink Tequila!
10. LOL, No problem, Ryan. I like tequila, too. So, what is your "can't live without" kitchen tool and why?
8 inch chef's knife. That and a tortilla press.
11. Please tell me how you go about planning your menus.
I ask myself:
Is the food great? Can it be consistent to order? Does it work for the restaurant? Is it good enough to put my name behind? Will our clientele love it?
12. If you had a different career choice, what would it be?
A tortilla lady in the Oaxacan food market.
13. What are the most important things to remember (can be relative to anything) while working as a chef?
Keep your cool. People talk trash about you, especially now with blogging. Stress levels reach ultimate highs in the kitchen, deliveries can show up late, machinery can break down. A million things can happen in one day and the one time you lose your cool, will be the time everybody remembers.
14. What is the most important thing you have learned in your culinary career?
Be passionate. I love what I do. Not many can say that about their job.
15. What is your favorite dish on the menu at Zócalo?
Has to be the Arrachera( skirt steak). We're doing it right now with chile crusted red potatoes and a chimichurri. Slap that in a tortilla with some beans and I'm in heaven!
16. How did you get your job working for Ernesto?
I actually started as a barback a month after Zócalo started 5 1/2 years ago. It was my first job out of college. Kind of hard to break to the parents you know. But I had no restaurant experience and had to get in any way I could. It's paid off.
17. Zócalo is jumping on to the social media bandwagon with Facebook, implementing a blog into their website, and using a twitter account. How will you be involved?
I've been doing cooking videos. I did one for Thanksgiving and have a few more ready to post. We're just trying to stay up with the times.
18. What is the best meal you have ever had?
Actually this last summer my girlfriend and I went to Barcelona. It took us 3 straight nights to get a seat at this seafood restaurant. Once you get in, it looks like a fish market. You pick what you want, and are asked how you want it cooked. We ate 8 plates of seafood, 2 bottles of wine, and a salad. I got pictures it was awesome, the locals thought we were crazy Americans. I guess we were that night.
I want to thank Chef Ryan for his awesome replies. Here's a video of him with a Masa recipe:
You can follow Zocalo on twitter here, and keep up with them on their blog here.