Restaurant: Cafe Vicino
Number of years in the restaurant business: 21
Richard's Across the Street, Richard's Bakery, Amore, La Pastaia.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Oatmeal with raisins and walnuts, whole wheat toast, coffee.
Throughout your career in Idaho, how has the restaurant scene changed and how have you adapted to those changes over time?
There weren't too many dining options in 1993 when I came to Boise, but that changed with Amore and other restaurants like BB Strands. Then in the mid- to late-90s there was Richard's Across the Street, Doughty's Bistro and Desert Sage. Boise embraced this more sophisticated dining scene--which Red Feather Lounge, The MilkyWay and Andrae's added to. The economic downturn curtailed this growth unfortunately--now dining is more casual, people are sharing dishes. I work hard to keep prices down at Cafe Vicino while still keeping the food interesting and innovative.
What do you look to as inspiration for new recipes?
Travel and eating out in other cities. I just got back from a week in Boston--incredible food and ingredients. Also, I subscribe to a number of food magazines.
How do you innovate without excluding diners?
Well, we can't be everything to everybody. However, I've been a chef in Boise for almost 20 years, so I feel I
know the market and when and how much to push the envelope. I'll try things as a special first before committing to putting them on the menu to gauge the response and tweak from there.
What dish would you like to include on your menu, but worry that it might be too forward-thinking for this market?
I would like to do more "snout to tail," including offal. I've done a few dishes, like beef tongue and oxtail (currently on the menu) that are a little harder to sell but loved by more adventurous eaters.
What won't you eat?
Haven't found it yet. I've even eaten my mother-in-law's hamburger stroganoff--made with cream of chicken soup.
What's the one ingredient you can't live without in your kitchen?
What one great meal do you fix only for yourself?
Chicken and dumplings--and my wife makes that.
What's the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a dish?
Prosciutto--on a chocolate truffle.
Who is the most famous person you've cooked for?
Joe Montana, Secretary of State George Shultz, Martin Scorsese, Lolita Davidovich, Susan Sarandon.
Where do you like to eat in town?
The Modern, Thai Cuisine on Overland, Pho Nouveau, Tony's Pizzeria Teatro.
What's the most outrageous thing that's happened in a kitchen where you've worked?
The fire suppression system went off at La Pastaia on a busy Saturday night, spraying foam everywhere. We had to throw everything out and start over with more than 100 people sitting in the dining room waiting.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat three things the rest of your life, what would they be?
Red wine from Walla Walla, [Wash.], lamb, olive oil.
Describe the restaurant you would create if cost and demographic were not an issue.
Hip, vibrant, late-night chef hangout with a huge wine list with 50 wines by the glass, very creative/unusual foods and preparations. •