Interview with Food Trends Magazine

April 2014

Title: Executive Chef, restaurant at Amangiri Resort and Spa

Brief history- How did this restaurant come to be?

Honestly? it took an act of congress, president George Bush's signature, 76 million dollars and 10 years to complete.

How would you describe your restaurant?

The a lot smaller than you might think for an ultra luxury resort. we have some pretty great stuff though like real wood fired deck oven that we use Arizona black oak in. a solid fuel charcoal broiler with rotisserie grill that's fueled by mesquite lump charcoal,and all kinds of cook tops and gadgets. we even have the illegal stuff my favorite is thermomix. it mixes and heats to perfect preset temperatures. why is that cool have you ever wanted to just eat cake batter? this pasteurizes the mix leaving it relatively unchanged and ready to use as a dessert sauce- your imagination is the limit. The kitchen itself, is of course stunning, with the black lava stone and plenty of stainless steel.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

I believe all of my culinary and life experiences create what I do on a plate. I feel a deep connection and respect for the culinary traditions around the world and how they have shaped their cultures over time. To me, a cultures’ food is just as important as the language. It’s a very powerful non verbal way people communicate with each other. Every food event tells a very important story. That story is what continues to renew my child like wonder for food, its variations, and preparations. Using this feeling and the deep connection I feel to food is, I believe, the reason people refer to my food as jazz like. I love music and was a even professional audio engineer in L.A. for 6 years. Are my experiences in live sound and punk rock touring in the food? Yeah maybe. I don't know.

What sets me apart?

I’d like to think at this level that the only real competition is myself. Other chefs just inspire me. Their perseverance and drive to always better their best is the thing I constantly think about. It’s like the un-winnable game-- how well did I cut that onion or season that sauce? Even more so, did I inspire my cooks to rise to a level they never thought possible? What is my goal as a chef? For me, it is to learn, grow, and teach others.

How was the menu created?

When I begin the creation process for a menu or dish i start by asking myself these key questions-

  • Is it relevant?
  • is the style or flavors time less?
  • is it of the season?
  • is it engaging?
  • does it represent my current food philosophy and cooking styles?
  • does it connect you with your surroundings?
  • is there a story or emotion your trying to convey with dish or menu your trying to create?
  • what is the star of the plate and is it obvious?
  • could i have done it with one less thing?

I think it’s so important that hospitality folk realize that unless we are working harder for our guests’ experience than they are working for themselves then we have failed them. We are supposed to connect with and elevate our guest through the food and the genuine service we give. This process starts with a well planned menu. It’s style and execution are vital. A menu should draw you in, be quick and to the point, and convey a clear message. All of these questions and experience go into every menu I create. 

What is your most popular dish and what makes it so special?

 I would have to say the most popular dish that on the menu right now is the wood oven fired Oregon foraged mushrooms and sunny side up local hens egg with chopped chervil and smoked Utah Parmesan. The dishes with the most popularity are always the locally inspired ones. I’m proud of all the awesome things coming out of Utah. I’m always trying to endorse the people that make it great—from the purveyors producing amazing proteins to farmers growing amazing produce as well as all of the outstanding small companies producing their own product lines. I try to represent a piece of Utah in each one of the dishes I create.

What is the secret to running a successful restaurant? 

No secrets? All it takes is a lot of hard work and a true desire to offer amazing hospitality. Okay, I must admit maybe there is one secret that I learned from a young age- ALWAYS sweat the small stuff and the rest will take care of itself. 

How do you view the future of your restaurant? 

The sky is the limit. This resort and restaurant are an experience that only we can offer. For most people, the food that we offer and the scenery the guests experience while they are here are a once in a lifetime experience.

What is your favorite dish to make at the restaurant and why?

The newest one! LOL! I love a dish called the smoking scallop. It reminds me of one of my first childhood memories of seafood that I enjoyed on the coast of California. This was back when you could still smoke in a restaurant. I remember the sweet flavor of the grilled scallop dipped in butter with the smell of cigar smoke on the warf in San Francisco. To create this dish I start off by lightly smoking the scallop with a Davidoff cigar. I serve it with various different things, but you will usually you see a grilled cantaloupe vinaigrette and caviar as main players in the game.

Why do your diners love your restaurant?

The guests of this restaurant love the view and love the food and its integrity. It is honest food that isn’t trying to hide behind anything. It’s about that moment when you close your eyes and let the bite your about to have do all the work. I relate it to a vibration- it starts small and continues to grow until euphoria visits andI can tell the guest has begun to relax and enjoy the show. When I start a special dining experience with a guest I can always tell when they go from being analytical to drinking the koolaid.

What restaurants, besides your own, do you frequent?

I work constantly but when I find time some of my favorites are Takashis, Copper Onion, Forage, Taliskars on Main, Gjelina,Venice Beach California, Slanted Door, SanFrancisco, Fatty Crab, New York, le Bernadine, New York, Momofuko, New York.It’s hard to say. There are so many great restaurants you can’t just pick one or two.

Are there any new or future plans for the restaurant?

This restaurant has been out grown by the popularity of the resort so there will be a renovation and expansion. We did just put in a butcher shop in our satellite building, with cool stuff like dry aging sides of beef and half hogs and a cold room to break everything down in. At Amangiri, the food we offer is a constant adventure! 

What food trends do you forecst for the upcoming season?

People want upscale peasant food! that they can feel food about eating at least in small quantities.

Is there anything about this restaurant that people may not know but should?

Because of the exclusiveness of the resort we haven’t offered non-guests reservations in the past. We are now offering outside guests the opportunity to take in all of the beauty of our property and dine with us upon making advance reservations.