Round two with Joe Freemond, exec chef of the Cellar Wine Bar
Biggest compliment you're ever received: Seeing empty plates come back to the kitchen is always the best compliment a chef can receive, but my biggest compliment came while I was working at TAG. We would cook tasting dinners, or omakases, for diners who wanted the full experience of letting the cooks have creative freedom with their meal. Each cook was assigned to one course for a given table's omakase meal, and we'd have to improvise on the spot what the dish would be. As if that wasn't enough pressure, the diners would then rate which course was their favorite, so there was this intense internal competition among the cooks to win the omakase. One night, we had a woman come in and sit at the chef's counter by herself and order a six-course omakase. I had previously made some carrot, English pea, ricotta and chive ravioli with a carrot-and-coriander pasta dough for a special, which I decided to use for my course. I paired the ravioli with sautéed sweet corn and red chard and topped it off with a reduced lamb jus. The woman chose my course as her favorite and called me up to the counter to tell me that it was "heaven on a plate." It's pretty hard to beat that kind of compliment.
Are you affected by reviews at all? What's your opinion on food writers and social review sites like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon? I think that all chefs are affected by reviews on some level. If they weren't affected, then it would mean that they don't care about their craft anymore. Review sites can be very helpful if used correctly, but too often, people use these sites as an open anonymous forum to air their grievances and complaints to an unsuspecting world. Like other chefs in town have said, I think these sites should be used more for recognizing the accomplishments of chefs and restaurants rather than a place to complain. If you have something to complain about, tell me while you're at the restaurant and give me a chance to do something to fix it. By the time someone complains on the Internet, the moment for resolution and progression has passed.
What's your biggest pet peeve? Indecisiveness.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? While I was making ravioli at TAG, my girlfriend bought me the Encyclopedia of Pasta, which has since become my bible. It's been instrumental in changing my knowledge of pasta and its history and how I approach making different types of pasta. Equally important is the the French Laundry cookbook that my dad gave to me several years ago. There's so much in there about the mental attitude and respect for one's duties, ingredients and profession that have really shaped the way I go about my job, not to mention the amazing recipes. I always refer back to that cookbook when I need a little creative recharge.
What are your favorite wines and/or beers? My current favorite wine is a 2009 Marchesi de Frecobaldi Super Tuscan that's on our wine menu right now. I could list favorite beers for days, but a few that I really love are Avery's the Reverend, Boulevard Brewing's Tank 7, Oskar Blues' Old Chub, Grand Teton Brewing's Bitch Creek, and a good Mickey's forty-ounce. Don't hate.
Favorite dish on your menu: Tagliatelle nero with clams, white wine, butter, shallots and gremolata. It's a squid-ink pasta with beautiful plump little pasta clams. And it's simple, elegant and delicious.