Culinarily, one of the most profound experiences I had as a young adult [was] for my birthday. I went to a restaurant called La Serre in the Valley. I had “Lobster à l’Americaine.” It was the first time I ever had food that felt like more than sustenance.
It was lobster cooked in the shell, and it was cut out of the shell, and put back into the shell, so it looked like a whole lobster on a plate. And I think the claws were pulled out. The knuckles were attached, and the tail was put back into the shell, and it looked like a lobster kind of swimming in a pinkish reddish creamy lobster sauce.
I think pernod was probably the first thing that I was tasting that I didn't really know what it was at that point in time. [It has] this kind of anise flavor, then you kind of get into the richness of the lobster in the cream, and [I] was just kind of “Wow!” I was blown away.
It was beautifully plated and presented, it was tasty, and it was fun to eat. It was definitely inspiring for me to think about how I would pursue my career past that.
My parents were not great cooks. I went over to my [friend’s] house and his mom was braising chicken in the kitchen. I got there after dinner, and I was kind of peeking around the house, and I went over to the stove and there was this chicken in some sort of liquid on a big pot on the stove, and I'm like, “Who cooks chicken like that?” That was definitely my “Ratatouille” moment of, “My mom and dad don't ever make food like that for me.”
I think about America [where] everything has to be instantaneous, [but] good food takes time. Time and temperature. Still kind of one of my inspirations to become a chef [is] how can food be better than just food. And it takes love and technique, and time.