by Mabel Suen
Did your family cook when you were a child? Not really. I started cooking for the family when I was twelve.
First cooking job? I worked in the high school cafeteria washing pots.
Did you attend culinary school or college? Yes, I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York.
What do you eat? I love Asian cuisine, especially Thai or Vietnamese.
What do you cook at home? Mostly on the grill. We grill everything -- chicken, pork tenderloin, vegetables.
What are your three favorite food-related businesses in St. Louis (besides your own)? That's a good question. We hardly ever go out to eat. I have an eleven-year-old son, and his ideal meal is chicken fingers and French fries. I love Niche, going to the farmers market at the Schlafly Bottleworks on Wednesdays and G&W Sausage.
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? The Veranda in Evansville, Florida.
Your favorite food city? New York.
Favorite recent food find? Marcoot Jersey Creamery.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Extra virgin olive oil.
Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? The tomatoes we got from Double Star Farms were just fabulous.
Five words to describe your food. Clean, vibrant, real, natural, healthy.
One food you dislike. I've never really been able to acquire a taste for sea urchin.
A food you can't live without. Leeks.
An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Monosodium glutamate.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... I think it just needs more people that appreciate finer food. If you go to Chicago, LA or Miami and go to a restaurant like this in a museum, the expectations of the quality of food just leaps and bounds over what St. Louis restaurants serve. We'd like to be the trendsetter to raise the bar, if you will.
Best tip for home cooks. Take your time. Don't rush it.
Favorite after-work hangout. My garage with my motorcycle.
Favorite kitchen tool. Pepper mill.
What's next for you? I've already owned my own restaurant once and I don't think we're going to do that again, so there's not really much left I haven't done.
What inspires you? The smells, aromas and tastes of fresh food.
Chefs who inspire you. I'd love to have Thomas Keller's job.
Favorite cookbooks? I'm constantly referring to my food almanac.
Proudest professional moment? Catering to Robert Mondavi's 80th birthday. He signed the menu for me, and I have it framed at home.
Favorite music to have in the kitchen. I honestly don't like a radio playing in my kitchen. I think it's distracting.
What's on your pizza? Smoked chicken, roasted poblano pepper, sharp white cheddar and red onion jam.
What's in your omelet? Mushrooms, spinach and sharp white cheddar.
What are you drinking? I love artisan craft beer, and a good bottle of red wine with a good dinner is very pleasurable for me. What's the most surprising food you've eaten? The peaches this summer were fabulous.
What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? I have to say the human-resources aspect of dealing with people on a professional level can be challenging.
When did you know the chef's life was for you? I guess I just discovered at the age of twelve that I had a knack for cooking.