Annabelle Forrestal, exec chef of Vine Street, Mountain Sun Pub and Southern Sun, on food critics, the French Laundry and hot sauce
Favorite music to cook by: TV on the Radio. They're melodic at times, intense at others. Listening to music is one of my favorite aspects about working in a kitchen as opposed to an office environment. I'm surrounded by music and food all day long. What an awesome combo.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Common sense. I love it when my cooks are inquisitive and can think past their position, and I encourage them to evaluate their situations and think for themselves instead of copping out and relying on someone else to do their thinking for them. I don't like to babysit; instead, I hold comfort in knowing that we hire and retain intelligent chefs.
Biggest kitchen disaster: I knocked the valve off of a serving tank of beer in the walk-in on my first day out of training. Nearly 186 gallons of Ruckus Wit Belgian Ale came shooting out, and the twenty pounds of pressure blew me out of the walk-in and across the room. I was soaked.
What's never in your kitchen? American cheese.
What's always in your kitchen? Wine.
Favorite food from your childhood: Artichokes that my dad would bring home from the Ferry Building in San Francisco. He'd come home from business trips with produce taking up most of the room in his suitcase. I'd run to help him unpack, and in return, I'd receive my very own, perfectly large artichoke. I had the cooking technique perfected at a young age, steaming them just enough to scrape the meat off each leaf. I'd sit there and eat the entire thing all by myself until I reached the prized heart. To this day, it still remains one of my favorite foods, and the California chokes were far superior in flavor than the ones I could get when I lived in St. Louis.
Favorite dish on your menu: Buffalo saison chili loaded with seasonal and local veggies, deglazed with some farmhouse Belgian saison, fragrant with the roasty spice from charred jalapeños, and served with fluffy, cheesy cornbread and whipped honey butter. I break the cornbread into the chili, and it all just melts in your mouth, and the buffalo adds a nice change from the traditional beef.
Favorite restaurant in America: The French Laundry. When I was in the fourth grade, my dad moved our family to a small town in Napa Valley called Yountville, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to some of the freshest and most delicious foods, unbelievable wineries and, of course, inspiring restaurants. The French Laundry was a five-minute walk from our front door to theirs. I vividly remember the ivy-covered building and the dessert of coffee and doughnuts. Fortunately for me, we ate there often, and I attribute my yearning for unique and stimulating dining experiences to this.