Round two with Jeremy Kittelson, exec chef of Ambria
What's never in your kitchen? I guess I can never say never, but I certainly don't have many pre-made foods in my kitchen. I try and make as much as I possibly can in-house, and I take a lot of pride in doing so.
What's always in your kitchen? Music. I can't even imagine going all day without listening to great music. It really helps set the tone for service and keeps people focused. I've also been turned on to so much great music just by working in kitchens. I love hip-hop, but everyone brings in their own music, which is good, because then we're all equally represented.
Favorite dish on your menu: Our carrot salad. When I conceived of the dish, I wasn't really sure how it would work out or be received by our diners; I only knew that it would be unique. It actually turned out really well and has gotten a great response. Plus, Lori Midson asked that I never take it off our menu.
Biggest menu bomb: Clam pizza. I've always heard about these epic clam pizzas that people wait hours to have on the East Coast. Unfortunately, I've tried to make it several times with no success. I guess I have to eat one to really know what it's supposed to be like.
Favorite childhood food memory: I used to love to eat freshly cut rhubarb dipped in sugar. My grandmother used to cut it and then serve it with a bowl of sugar. It was a really special treat.
One book that every chef should read: There are two, really: On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, and Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. Both have been essential in my career, and I use them constantly. These are the two books I always recommend to aspiring chefs and home cooks. Understanding ingredients and food pairings is paramount to creating great food. Creativity, on the other hand, will only carry you so far.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Do your prep in advance and stay organized. Home cooks don't know the meaning of "mise en place," but a lot of food would be better if home cooks did as much as they could in advance and were more organized. I've seen a lot of home cooking, and it looks like a train wreck in their kitchen.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? When I left Blackbird, they gave me a Misono knife. It was really special, and I felt appreciated for all that I'd done there. Besides that, it was just a really great knife.