Chef and Tell, part two: Jorge de la Torre on vegetarians, knives and offal
Jorge de la Torre
Johnson & Wales University
This is part two of Lori Midson's interview with Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University. Part one of that interview ran in this space yesterday.
Favorite restaurant in America: The Shed in Santa Fe has never varied since it opened, and the No. 5 -- blue-corn chicken enchiladas with red chile and a fried egg on top -- is fantastic. La Posata in Marlton, New Jersey, is in this nondescript strip mall, but it's the restaurant that made me realize what true Italian-American cooking is all about. Until I ate there, I never understood what people were talking about when they said that you couldn't get good Italian food in Denver. I also love the Tadich Grill and House of Nanking in San Francisco, Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, Shake Shack in New York and JJ Chinese here in Denver. These are the places that never disappoint my wife or me.
Best food city in America: New York. I love authentic ethnic foods, and you can find anything you want there, and it'll probably be just as good as being in that country. It's not unusual for me to try at least seven restaurants in a day when I'm in New York -- and I still haven't even begun to enjoy what's available. The last time I was in New York, the group I was with was really into the Foursquare thing on their phones, and I was embarrassed that people might see that I was at four restaurants and three bars in something like a four-hour span. Technology isn't all that. I still want to eat under the radar.
Favorite Denver restaurant(s): JJ Chinese. They treat me like family, and every dish I've had there is great.
Current Denver culinary genius: Wow, there are so many, but mine aren't the usual suspects. Have you ever had the stuffed chicken wings at Saigon Bowl? Genius. The xiao long bao at Lao Wang Noodle House? Genius. What I really appreciate are the chefs who give my students the opportunity to work in their kitchens, help them and stay mindful of the fact that they're just starting their careers. I've also noticed that our chefs are very charitable, and I'm always amazed at the top-quality chefs that are at every event I attend.
If you could teach any class, even though it might not be popular, what would it be? Teaching the fifth quarter -- in other words, the offal. When you kill an animal, every part needs to be used -- the heart, the liver, the gizzards, the kidneys. They're delicious and flavorful. Those things are special, and they shouldn't be thrown away, but I think a lot of students would be afraid to take a class on offal.
One book that every chef should read: When you're a young chef, Daniel Boulud's Letters to a Young Chef; Charles Carroll's Tasting Success; The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation, by David Camp; and for a little history, Fernand Point's Ma Gastronomie. As an older chef, read Anthony Bourdain's books and Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin -- both will make you laugh. And every chef should take a look at La Technique from Jacques Pépin every once in a while just to refresh.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network, and what would it be about? If anyone does this I'll cry, because I want to have a show where I travel around the world going to food markets and farmers' markets and then cook what we found at those markets. Everywhere I've traveled, there's always been a beautiful market.
You're making a pizza. What's on it? Anchovies, pancetta, basil and an egg in the middle.