By Scott Mechura EBS Food Columnist
If you’ve ever read an interview with a chef, you’d see pretty standard questions, such as “Where did you learn to cook?” Or, “Who is your inspiration?” But as a fellow chef, there is another question; the only other question I’m interested in. Who would I like to cook for?
The answer to that question tells a lot about a chef. It shows his or her personality outside of the kitchen; who he respects and follows in the industry, where he came from, and perhaps, where he’s going.
Some chefs say they’d like to cook for their favorite actor, musician or athlete. Some perhaps say the President of the United States, while others would be beside themselves to get behind the stoves for the likes of Auguste Escoffier, or Fernand Point – the father and prodigal son, so to speak, of modern cookery.
Not only is this a telling question, but there’s no wrong answer. Rather, it unwittingly gives us a deeper look at what makes them tick; who they surround themselves with.
It wasn’t until this week that, after reading yet another article in which several chefs name their single dream diner, that I actually gave some thought to the question: Who would I like to cook for? Who are my dream diners?
My dining table, definitely a round table, would be bristling with an eclectic assortment of dream guests, to say the least.
First: Ed Christie, who was my first real mentor in this business. I worked for a couple restaurateurs before him, but it was my 11 years under Ed’s stoic, logical, intelligent leadership that I took many work and life lessons that I still recall on a regular basis. I haven’t seen Ed in years, but he would always be welcome at my table.
Next would be Marcus Samuelsson, a world-renowned chef whom I had the pleasure of working for many years ago. He and I are the same age, and yet he felt 10 years older. He was skilled and wise beyond his years, not to mention one of the most creative chefs I know of, anywhere.
Seated next to him would be Mark McEwan. I’ve never met Chef McEwan but would call him a mentor from a distance. With his collection of successful restaurants in Toronto, Ontario, and a weekly television show behind him, I would prepare for his next episode with pen and notebook, careful not to miss any lesson he might throw out, with all the anticipation of a boy waiting for his favorite cartoon. He should sit next to Samuelsson.
Next at the table: Anthony Bourdain. While Bourdain may seem like a cliché guest to some, given his colossal celebrity status I’d primarily welcome his travel stories and accompanying worldly palate. After having spent an entire weekend with him some years back, his sheer character and stories are always welcome at my table.
Somewhere in this group would sit two of my oldest and dearest friends, Annette Larson and Jim Lohse. While unrelated, they have each dined all over the world. They’ve both eaten my food for years, and have never been afraid to compliment my successes, and more importantly, critique my, well, non-successes.
Finally, my wife Carrie would most certainly have a seat at the table. She’s been party to many of my creations, trials, tribulations, and experiments, and has never for one second hesitated to either compliment me or tell me something is just not right, no matter my conviction to the contrary. She is, in the end, my best friend, and wherever my place is at the table, she will be seated at my side.
Now, what do I cook?
Scott Mechura has spent a life in the hospitality industry. He is a former certified beer judge and currently the Executive Chef at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky.