Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baker's Dozen #2: Chef Josh Stokes

Dear Boo,

Bout time for another Baker's Dozen, eh? Sheesh, you'd think we don't have any friends. Well! Chef Josh is no stranger to A Mouse Bouche--you may remember him from such episodes as Hamlet the Pig, the concord grape and habanero jam session, and that time I conveniently broke my elbow and he had to take over cooking the Boyfriend's Birthday Dinner. He's one of my most favorite people, and not just because he feeds me pretty much every time I see him. I've learned so much from watching him cook, and from his company Grill A Chef, which is basically dedicated to helping home cooks (and eaters) with any question, large or small. And believe me, I've asked them all. More than anything, he's an incredible chef. After a spring break trip to New Orleans during college, Chef Josh "saw his booze budget being funneled into restaurants instead", and decided to take a break from a sculpture degree to pursue becoming a professional chef. Since then he's worked in some of the greatest kitchens in Italy, New York, and as a private chef for some of the biggest names in entertainment and finance. But even better, is his totally democratic approach to cooking and eating: Whether it's a bucket of thighs from KFC, or foie gras at Gramercy Tavern (where he just recently did a stint in the kitchen), or something a measly little home cook like me has thrown together, if it's tasty, Josh will eat it and love it. In just a few short weeks, The Boyfriend and I will be in New Orleans celebrating Chef Josh and his lovely and brilliant lady Kate's wedding. Highlights? A crawfish boil the night before, and, drumroll please, a PIG BAR at the reception. Also I hear tell of late night goody-bag muffaletta on our way out the door. Jealous?

Without further ado, it's my turn to grill this Chef...

1) What are your earliest food memories?

I remember as a kid in Missouri, we would pick a lot of corn at an adjacent farm and spend the day peeling it, boiling it, and flash freezing it. I would eat as much as I could, it was like candy.
I also remember BLT's in late summer. Crispy bacon, iceberg lettuce and the perfect tomato on toasted wonder bread. It was one of my favorite things in the world.

2) What was the first meal you made for your lovely wife?

I made her a four course meal around arctic char, there was a tar tare with crispy skin, a sliced cured salad, and a slow roasted course. After the first course she told me that dinner was very delicious and asked what was for dessert.

3) If The Boyfriend were to call you and tell you he wanted to make a romantic dinner for me, what would you recommend? Keep in mind, he knows his way around the kitchen but he's no expert.

I'd recommend super simple fresh preparations. I think seafood works great, oysters, shrimp cocktail, mussels, a simple ceviche . . . . it's easy to do, sexy to eat, and doesn't weigh you down for any post-meal action . . . . if you know what I mean.

4) What do you have for dinner when you're home alone?

I always order Indian. I love it, but my wife will never go for it. So while the cat's away . . . .

5) What are the top mistakes home cooks make that could be easily solved?

The biggest misstep I see is with salt. People seemed petrified by the stuff, but you have to properly season your food, every step of the way. Salting at the beginning or end of a preparation doesn't cut it.

6) What food trend do you find totally irritating?

All of them. I am the ultimate post-modernist when it comes to food. Every food trend I've come across is a is an age old tradition with a new paint job and price tag. Take garlic scapes, last spring they were all over menus, and in magazines. Farmers were charging a premium. The year before, the majority of the public were passing them over and farmers were throwing them away.
The same is true for the other trends in the city over the years. Fried chicken? BBQ? Hamburgers? Ramen noodles?

7) Okay, weigh in on this debate for me: If a special on a menu features a main ingredient that I can find elsewhere on the regular menu, I assume it means they're trying to get rid of too much product that's about to go bad, and I don't order it. Am I being ridiculous?

This is totally circumstantial. It depends mostly on the place, sometimes you'll come across what you described. But more often I would suspect that they just bought a bunch of something that is great and/or has a short season. We're about to have ramps in the market, they'll show up everywhere. Excited chefs, (myself included) are bound to buy more than they know what to do with.
Hence the ramp special on the menu. . . . . I'd order it.

8) Favorite hangover cure?

Biscuits and gravy, no question.

9) The Boo and I grew up as products of a multi-cultural household, with parents from very different religious backgrounds. You recently had an adorable baby girl who faces a similar complexity: Dad is a chef who loves meat, and mom is a lifelong vegetarian. How do you plan on raising the munchkin?

She will eat plenty of vegetables . . . . wrapped in bacon.

10) Favorite pizza topping?

Arugula and prosciutto di Parma.

11) What do you do when you go to someone's house for dinner and the food is really terrible?

Smile and say thank you.

12) I've heard chefs like to play a game of "last supper"--as in, what your final meal would be if you could choose. What would yours be?

It would be something super simple and fresh. Like a perfect peach, or a really nice tomato with salt and olive oil and some crusty bread. Maybe even a BLT.

13) Your company, Grill A Chef, has an awesome tag-line, "advice from scratch". Who came up with that, and does this person's brilliance know no bounds?

Ha, you have a good point. I couldn't come up with anything good, so I put the word out to my friends and got a lot of response. One lucky rodent (who shall remain shameless) had the perfect tag-line for me. I still owe her a steak dinner.


Well, there you have it--all roads lead back to A Mouse Bouche. Thanks to Chef Josh for taking the time to participate in our Baker's Dozen. Thirteen questions are too brief, I know, so if there's anything I didn't ask that you're dying to find out, Boo, you don't have to wait til the next time we roast a pig. You can always visit Josh at, or at Chelsea Market or the Union Square Greenmarket where you can grill him in person. Now, excuse me, I have a ribeye to finish...


The Mouse


Anonymous said...

Ah, to be married to a chef! That description of the first meal he made his wife...How could you not fall in love with that man?

Kate Fenneman said...

yeah shes a lucky b*tch. Loved this article!

Anonymous said...

I loved this posting too...and ditto for me about the pizza, which could also double as my last meal along with a BLT, the which I love and absolutely never eat (why is that?), and some dessert - not sure which of that to pick.....

jeremy said...

Worlds colliding! My two favorite food bloggers on the same page! Great interview. I particularly identify with the "she will eat plenty of vegetables...wrapped in bacon" comment. I never finish either blog without feeling hungry, inspired and slightly more well equiped to feed myself well!

Anonymous said...

I follow Josh on his Grill a Chef blog also and really enjoyed this interview. It's interesting that some of us foodies are following both blogs. I think we're going to be hearing more about Josh as his career develops.

Anonymous said...

why doesn't this smart talented and (obviously) charming man open a half -and-half restaurant where "mixed couples" can have great meals without compromise! great interview - love the blog!

Anonymous said...

that dude is sexy.

ES_Addict said...

One path leads us down another.

Just saw Chef Josh carve up the competition on Chopped (aired 6/29/10), which led me to his blog which in turn took me down the path to yours.

I look forward to following your blog as well now that I've discovered it. Like finding a new cooking interest or recipe, it's always fun to take a new path and find out what's new around the corner.

The Mouse said...

Welcome, ES! So glad you found us. Very exciting to watch Chef Josh do his thing on national TV. Hope you come back to both of our blogs for lots of great info (his) and a few laughs (ours)!

Anonymous said...

"Ah, to be married to a chef! That description of the first meal he made his wife...How could you not fall in love with that man? alixsobler said..."

Totally true...I just saw the Chef Stokes on Chopped last weekend, didn't know it was 2 years ago... Too bad he's taken, would love to have a chef for a husband! LoL Best regards!