Restaurant: Bella Aquila
Number of years in the restaurant business: 26
Rachel K's Bistro, Blue Ribbon Artisans, Asiago's, Ca Creuse Pastries and Catering, Tapas Mediterranean Bistro, Crane Creek Country Club, the Gamekeeper, Cazba, Waldo Korkenbees Public Dining Club, Kyoto Japanese Steak House, Glacier Bay Lodge and more.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Nutella on toast and a banana.
Throughout your career in Idaho, how has the restaurant scene changed and how have you adapted to those changes over time?
The Food Network has partially educated people, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Food allergies are increasingly prevalent. Fine dining restaurants now have to have several casual dishes in order to compete.
What do you look to as inspiration for new recipes?
American Culinary Federation meetings and correspondence.
How do you innovate without excluding diners?
We try out innovations as specials and measure the guests' response against the servers' angst.
What dish would you like to include on your menu, but worry that it might be too forward-thinking for this market?
Frog legs, braised tripe, really authentic Italian food.
What won't you eat?
Kalamata olives. (They smell like stale sweat.)
What's the one ingredient you can't live without in your kitchen?
What one great meal do you fix only for yourself?
TomatoFish--it's an inside thing leftover from a long trip back from Europe.
What's the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a dish?
Fresca diet soda.
Who is the most famous person you've cooked for?
Roland Schaeffer, a world-renowned chef.
Where do you like to eat in town?
The Vietnamese Restaurant burned down, so we're looking for a new home away from home.
What's the most outrageous thing that's happened in a kitchen where you've worked?
Well, there's the marmalade story, but I don't think you could print that. How about blowing up the carved fruit display station after Mother's Day brunch? We had to hit one of the carvings with a Honda to smash it.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat three things the rest of your life, what would they be?
Toast, tuna fish and tomato soup.
Describe the restaurant you would create if cost and demographic were not an issue.
Someplace fun with great food but over-the-top stoic servers. The act of not being accommodating would bring people back for a second helping of abuse. No one would be able to take themselves too seriously. •