Did your family cook when you were a child? Yes, everyone did. My grandmother and mother were great inspirations for me.
How old were you when you started cooking? Professionally, I started at seventeen.
First cooking job? Working at a bar located near the Saint Louis University campus. Lunches were business-busy, but dinner I made more Jell-O-shots than anything.
Did you attend culinary school or college? No, I didn't enroll in the program.
What do you eat? As much as I can. Being busy around food, I tend to forget about my nutrition. Its mainly lean proteins, a lot of vegetables (greens, mainly), and eggs! Soup is my comfort.
What do you cook at home? I plan meals, but if I'm busy, a lot of eggs, takeout and shakes -- snacks are huge in the house, like a good cheese and crisp with it.
The local chef who most impresses you? Kevin Nashan -- Sidney Street.
Your favorite food city? Barcelona.
Favorite recent food find? Pedro Ximenez goat cheese.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Garlic.
Five words to describe your food. Simple, textured, contrast, fresh and consistent.
One food you dislike. Processed anything! Fast food, etc.
A food you can't live without. Eggs.
An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Preservatives.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... Dinner guests.
Best tip for home cooks. Read the instructions or recipe carefully before twisting around to your creation.
Favorite kitchen tool. My hands.
What's next for you? A cookbook with Modesto, opening another Modesto.
What inspires you? Life, traveling, the people who love me.
Chefs who inspire you. Rick Bayless, hands down.
Favorite cookbooks? Culinaria Spain, most Penelope Casas books.
Proudest professional moment? Being voted one of "America's Best Tables" in Gourmet magazine. Mario Batali faced the cover. I was only 27.
Favorite music to have in the kitchen. Latin hip-hop!
What's on your pizza? Light sauce, sausage and jalapeños.
What's in your omelet? Onion, Gruyère, tomato, basil.
What are you drinking? Tequila.
What's the most surprising food you've eaten? Oatmeal.
What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? You're not always on top. Don't ever stop studying the art, or you will be left behind.
When did you know the chef's life was for you? At seventeen -- the second I started!