Part two: Chef and Tell with Kyle Fitzgerald of the Old Blinking Light

Kyle Fitzgerald 2.jpg
Lori Midson
Kyle Fitzgerald, exec chef of Old Blinking Light
This is part two of my interview with Kyle Fitzgerald. To read part one, click here.

Culinary inspirations: I wish I had some great story about my mom's kitchen, or the way I would watch my grandma bake, but my kitchen was never that put together growing up. Most of my inspirations come from my wife and her family, along with all of my friends. I started cooking because of their suggestions and eventually found that this is where my heart is. My first daughter was born with a genetic disorder that affects her diet, and that drives me to be more creative in the kitchen; my wife is a great mom and makes me want to make my restaurant a success; and all my in-laws have different opinions on food, so it's fun when we can get all twenty of them in the same house and I get to see all of their reactions at the table when I present a faux caviar on a pancetta crisp or something completely out of the comfort zone -- and they like it.

Proudest moment as a chef: On my thirtieth birthday, my father-in-law came up to me, looked me in the eye and asked whether or not I realized that only eight years ago, we were sitting at the table trying to write up my resumé -- and now I've done all of this. I knew, at that moment, that while it's been a long road with a lot of crazy chefs and small restaurants, I had accomplished what most people with a four-year degree strive to do in twenty years. I haven't had any professional training; I taught myself how to cook and studied my ass off to get where I am at, and I'll continue to study and push all my culinary skills so that I'll never be called boring or mundane.

Best food city in America: Chicago. I spent a good half a year out there and loved the restaurants. You can find everything, from those detail-oriented, experimental places like Alinea to the mom-and-pop Greek and Italian joints and all those little tiny holes-in-the-wall in between.

Favorite New York restaurant: I haven't been to New York in a while, so I'm just going to play the chef card on this one and say that my favorite is whatever restaurant takes the award for the best customer service.

Favorite music to cook by: Prep time: classic rock. Crunch time: Tiger Army or some kind of psychobilly rock. On the line at night: Reverend Horton Heat or something with a great bass line that can keep the energy flowing. I hate all drama country music and all the Matchbox Twenty-sounding bands, because the lyrics make everyone think about their problems too much, and that brings production to a standstill.

Most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: It was my second night on the line as a sous chef at the Old Blinking Light, and I was cooking with a bottle of cheap tequila. I looked away while pouring it in a hot-ass pan and the bottle suddenly caught fire and shot into the expo side of the line, and half the kitchen was covered with tiny blue flames. All the guests heard the explosion, and the line cook who was standing next to me was shaking. It was like I was pointing a gun at him. My chef, Joseph Wade, came running around the corner asking if everyone was okay, and I felt my face turn red as he just laughed and told me to be more careful. I knew it was a rookie mistake. To add insult to injury, I felt the wrath of Montezuma's revenge and used nothing but good tequila after that.

You're at the market: What do you buy two of? Chiles and anything pickled. I love green chiles, jalapeños and stuff like banana peppers and olives.

What's never in your kitchen? Drama. I know that we all have things that happen outside of our work, but your problems shouldn't be brought into my kitchen. That said, I allow fights as long as they are refereed by me and no weapons are involved. But no one ever throws a punch, because they know that I'll lock both people in the dumpster and only one man is allowed out. I learned about that from the good old Mad Max movies, and it seemed to work great. I hate the line cooks who can't ever seem to have a good day. Respect the fact that all you have to do is cook and keep your station stocked. Seriously, what the hell is so hard about that? Stop crying, take an aspirin and just do your job.

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