Jonah Munson of the Walnut Room: "You're no better than your kitchen staff"
This is part two of my interview with Jonah Munson, exec chef of the Walnut Room. Part one of our conversation ran yesterday.
What do you enjoy most about your craft? Working with my hands with simple, wholesome ingredients to create something delicious that people will enjoy and want to come back for.
Describe the biggest challenges facing today's chefs: I think sourcing great local and organic ingredients at prices that are feasible for your restaurant is difficult.
What recent innovation has most influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way? The farm-to-table trend and the movement toward better, local and organic ingredients.
Favorite culinary-related gift you've been given: I've had an orange Betty Crocker circa 1977 cookbook for many years that's been used so often that the cover fell off and the pages fell out, so last year for Christmas, my wife and my kids gave me a near-mint-condition copy that they found on eBay. It was priceless.
Favorite culinary-related item to give as a gift: A great cookbook -- I love the Bread Bible -- and a great mixer, like a KitchenAid, especially if you want to give a splurge gift.
What's your own fantasy splurge? A trip to Italy to see some great masters at work in their pizza kitchens.
What was the last cookbook you bought, and what recipes are you cooking from it? I have more than a hundred cookbooks at the house, but I can't remember the last one that I bought, although I think it was a church cookbook from the 1950s. I love going to yard sales on the weekends just to pick up cookbooks -- everything from the great masters to the spiral-bound cookbooks produced by churches and schools with all their personal recipes. I use a lot of different cookbooks to pull recipes from, and I usually pick the things I like from those recipes to use as building blocks for new recipes.
Best recipe tip for a home cook: Don't be afraid to follow your instincts; look at different variations of the same recipe and then take the things you like from each and make the recipe your own.