Did your family cook together when you were a child? Yes. My parents are great cooks, and I loved helping and watching.
How old were you when you started cooking? I started when I was a child.
First cooking job? While I was in college, I did an internship at Donald Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Tom Vaccarro was the executive pastry chef for Trump Plaza and Casino, and he became my mentor.
Did you attend culinary school or college? If so, where and for how long? Yes, I went to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, for four years.
What do you eat? For the last seven weeks, I've been working with a weight-loss coach. So I eat the exact same thing from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I've been eating grilled chicken and broccoli for seven weeks.
What do you cook at home? For the last seven weeks, my George Foreman grill has been getting a workout. My wife and I used to go out to eat every night, so it's a change.
What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)? I'm in love with Fozzie's (1170 South Big Bend Boulevard, Richmond Heights; 314-932-5414). Brio (1601 South Lindbergh Boulevard, Frontenac; 314-432-4410) -- my wife and I are there quite a bit. I'm a St. Louis boy at heart. So I love Imo's pizza.
The local chef who most impresses you? My colleague here at Jilly's, Dana Holland. He is dynamite. I'm totally on the sweet side, and he's more savory, so he and I are perfect together. He's an absolute food dude and has great flavor combinations. He does a great Sunday brunch. He impresses the hell out of me.
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? Blue Ribbon in New York. At most places in the city, you're fighting for a seven or eight o'clock reservation. At Blue Ribbon, you're fighting for one a.m. reservations. It's where chefs go when they're done cooking. All my friends in New York post on Facebook that they're going there, and I'm jealous.
Your favorite food city? New York.
Favorite recent food find? Fozzie's -- my gosh. They're growing their own produce, they've got a great garden, and not a thing on the menu is bad. Their falafel is great. You have to go back again the next day.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Vanilla beans. You can use them to add a depth of flavor to the real stuff.
Favorite local food find, and where do you get it?Eckert's peaches. You can't get anything better at this point. We're about to unveil a cupcake with peaches at Jilly's.
Five words to describe your food. "Boy, these cupcakes are big!"
One food you dislike. Sour cream. Oh, lord of mercy. I can't stand it. Ironically enough, it's good in baking. I have an aversion to cultured dairy products.
A food you can't live without. Chocolate.
An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. I'm usually open to experimenting. Everything has got its place. We've put short ribs in things. We played around with savory cupcakes and had it ready for Cupcake Wars.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... National attention on good things we've already got going on.
Best tip for home cooks. I'm a big fan of infusion. Anytime you can infuse flavors, it's awesome. For example, oven roasting pineapple. Infusing things in liquid form. I love it.
Favorite after-work hangout. My couch with my wife.
Favorite kitchen tool. Parchment paper. It's so versatile.
What's next for you? I'm going to keep teaching. I love influencing future pastry chefs.
What inspires you? My students; I learn so much from them.
Chefs who inspire you. Great pastry chefs who are bringing the pastry world into the national eye. Johnny Iuzzini who is hosting Top Chef Just Desserts. Any pastry chefs who are bringing pastry and baking to the forefront.
Favorite cookbooks? Sweet Seasons, by Richard Leach. It's a plated dessert book that's absolutely great. Also a new chocolate book called The Art of the Chocolatier, by Ewald Notter. He's German.
Proudest professional moment? I was named Teacher of the Year for St. Louis Community College in 2010. It meant a lot because it was peer driven. I'm also proud to have represented St. Louis on national television. I've been really lucky.
Favorite music to have in the kitchen. At school, there's no music allowed in my kitchen. [Laughs] At Jilly's, I'm a Y98 kind of guy.
What's on your pizza? Sausage, caramelized onions and ricotta cheese.
What's in your omelet? I'm an everything guy. With jalapenos.
What are you drinking? I'm a Vodka boy. I'm a bloody mary freak.
What's the most surprising food you've eaten? When you first hear "bone marrow," you don't think it will be good. But it is.
What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? You need to learn to be humble, because so many chefs are in it for their ego. Teaching shows me that we're here to pass on our knowledge to others.
When did you know the chef's life was for you? The day we made English muffins in class. I had no idea how an English muffin was made. It was my third day of college in breads class. I said, "Oh my God, it looks like the ones from the store!" That's when I knew.
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