Chris Williams of Franco, Part 2

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This is part two of Chrissy Wilmes' Chef's Choice profile of Chris Williams of Franco (1535 South Eighth Street; 314-436-2500). Part one can be found here. Part three, a recipe from Williams, can be found here.

CHRISSY WILMES
  • Chrissy Wilmes

Did your family cook when you were a child? Mom made dinner every night, and we sat at the table and ate together. Dad packed our school lunches -- brown-bagging every day!

How old were you when you started cooking? I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and I had an assignment in Spanish class that involved researching and cooking the food of Spain. I became curious then.

First cooking job? Prep cook/line cook at Summit House restaurant in Keystone, Colorado.

Did you attend culinary school or college? The C.I.A.

What do you eat? A little of everything. Usually toasted PB & J for breakfast. Bites and tastes while at work.

What do you cook at home? Unless I have a big meal planned for a special occasion, I usually cook simple foods. One-pot meals, lots of veggies, rice with beans or lentils.

What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)? La Vallesana, Blues City Deli and Farmhaus.

The local chef who most impresses you? Kevin Willmann.

Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? Eleven Madison Park, New York City.

Your favorite food city? NYC.

Favorite recent food find? Savory and marjoram.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Salt.

Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? Ducks from Harr Farm [at Soulard Market].

Five words to describe your food. Honest, approachable, flavorful, playful, evolving.

CHRISSY WILMES
  • Chrissy Wilmes

One food you dislike. I had grubs prepared several different ways while in Ecuador. Didn't care for any of them.

A food you can't live without. Potatoes or bread. Not sure which.

An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. High-fructose corn syrup. Artificial foods.

Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... More diners that are willing to support local chefs and independent restaurants.

Best tip for home cooks. Taste your food while you are cooking. Trust what you taste and make the necessary adjustments.

Favorite after-work hangout. Urban or Jack Patrick's. Both are great bars.

Favorite kitchen tool. Eight-inch chef's knife.

What's next for you? Summer and all the things it brings.

What inspires you? Talking to other people about food.

Chefs who inspire you. Eric Ripert, Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller, Hubert Keller. Favorite cookbooks? Joy of Cooking, The Zuni Café Cookbook, Peace, Love, and Barbecue.

Proudest professional moment? Killing, dressing and using everything I could of a 200- to 220-pound wild pig.

Favorite music to have in the kitchen. '60s, '70s, '80s '90s, '00s or whatever. No preference. My guys select the music and play their CDs or iPods. I just keep the veto when it goes bad.

What's on your pizza? Whatever is in the box the next morning. In my house, I just get leftover pizza.

What's in your omelet? Goat cheese, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms.

What are you drinking? Water all day in the kitchen, then 2nd Shift's Wheat Freak, O'Fallon's Hemp Hop Rye. Or a Busch bottle or can.

What's the most surprising food you've eaten? Cuy; Rocky Mountain oysters.

What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? You are not cooking for yourself.

When did you know the chef's life was for you? There was really no "aha" moment. I kept working in kitchens. I would accomplish something and then want more, wanting to improve.

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