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Culinary influences?
Aunt Helen. She lived in an old Victorian house up on College Hill in Kutztown. She cooked on a pot belly stove, making bacon, scrapple, homemade bread, stuffed pig stomach, pork and sauerkraut—very good home cooking. A lot of it involved a pig.

Where did you learn to cook?
I was a graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. I apprenticed under master chef George Korousous in Newport.
When I finished training there, I traveled to Eugene, Oregon where I worked in indie restaurants for five years.

A call from David van Duren, a restaurateur, brought me back to Kutztown to work at a new café called the Uptown Espresso Bar. I have been there for over ten years.

Favorite cookbook?
My favorite cookbooks are those written by chef George Perrier from Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia.

What’s the one ingredient you couldn’t live without?
Heavy cream.

Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
Pat Metheny

Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
Steelhead Brewery’s Hefeweizen from Eugene, Oregon

Favorite type of food?:
Italian and Polish.

Most memorable meal?
Chicken Parmigiana. While living at school off campus, I was cooking a chicken parm and I sautéed the mirepoix (mix of carrot, celery, onion) at school, caramelized all the veggies with the garlic, added roma tomatoes, a little of oregano, and a splash of heavy cream and put this in the blender and put it over the chicken parm.

I had it all to myself—it was like a food epiphany and nobody else was there. So it didn’t go on the record, because you must subject people to put it on the record. And I was by myself—people were in and out of the house all the time, but on this particular day, no one came. It was too good for one person.

Most irritating celebrity chef?
Emeril Lagasse—that rag-carrying gumba! What ignorant audience constantly applauds the use of garlic? And, what chef has a band? The other night, I’m watching that show and it looked like he had a bath towel on his shoulder the whole time. Let me be fair to Lagasse—he does do the Essence of Emeril. It's on a Saturday at 11 and it's just him—no band, no bath towel, no garlic, no gumba. It's just him and he's talking.

Remember the two fat ladies that cooked? They were British and they were my favorite cooking show. They rode motorcycles and the one sat in that sidecar, and they just cooked! There was no pretension. The food network is filled with proverbial bullshit. Just read the recipe on your favorite can and there you have it.

What makes indie food better?
Oh, the nonconformity—you're not going to get a surprise on the menu of a McDonald’s or Burger King or Starbucks. They pretty much have the same thing and maybe will rotate their stuff on the third month (of every leap year). When you go to an indie restaurant, you will get what the indie chef is using on that day, and it’s serendipitous. You don't get that with the conglomerates.

Who’s more your type, Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth?
I would say Mrs. Butterworth. There is something about the churning of butter. I don't know what it is.

Know a chef that would be great for Side Dish?
Contact Robyn Jasko, Side Dish Editor, at [email protected]
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