La Sandia exec chef Sergio Romo: "Negativity is contagious"
In part one of my interview with Sergio Romo, exec chef of La Sandia Northfield, the Mexico-born kitchen commander weighed in on servers who need a kick in the butt, explained why his molcajete bests a blender and insisted that real Mexican food is the focus of his modern kitchen. In today's Q&A, Romo discusses the earthquake that made him shake in his clogs, the importance of proper seasonings and why people who talk behind his back have no place in his galley.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? I get to eat, like, seven times a day. Being a chef is the best gig in the world for a guy like me, and eating and cooking are my favorite pastimes.
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What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? My very first chef's coat inscribed with my name on it. It meant a lot to me then, and still does.
What's your fantasy splurge? Seafood, and lots of it, especially lobsters -- the more the better. Red snapper is also a favorite. I could eat seafood every day.
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? The Professional Chef -- one of the Culinary Institute of America's cookbooks -- has really helped me instill a lot of professional standards in the kitchen to help it run more smoothly and efficiently.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way? Smartphones have dramatically changed the way people experience food -- diners take pictures, tweet, share their thoughts, add pictures and check in on Facebook. Every little bit of a person's restaurant experience is now shared with their friends, which is great, but also a little scary.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Pay attention to your seasoning, especially when it comes to salt and sugar, and don't be too quick to add this, that and the other to a dish before you taste it. I see way too many people piling on different seasonings and hot sauces before they even taste the dish. Taste it first, ponder what it needs, and then adjust your seasonings.
What's your biggest pet peeve? When people talk behind my back. If you have a problem, you need to address me in person. In a restaurant, this is especially important. Open communication can make or break the way a restaurant runs. If I'm doing something that doesn't suit you, then please let me know. Constructive criticism is always a good thing; it helps us all put out a better product. Negativity is contagious and can bring down the entire feel of a restaurant.