Chef Jean-Pierre Interview Part 2: A Game of Free-Association

Categories: The Verbal Nosh
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Today, in Part Two of our talk with Chef Jean-Pierre, the man behind the local cooking school, we talk about food trends, blogging, and other chefs.  For Part One of our interview, click here.

Do you have a signature dish?
Old fashioned dishes like Beef wellington or paella are what people come in for.

And you also do private parties at the school.
The parties -- people get to pick the menu and the time they want to come. If they want to have a good time, I just want to party with 'em.  It's a whole different atmosphere. 

What food trends interest you these days?

I read all the magazines, but there is no food trend for the consumer. There is for professional chefs. When it comes to cooking at home, there really is no new trend. More people are trying to eliminate preservatives and eat more healthy. Trends are all marketing. They come up with something, and it's so stupid. In the last few years, everybody wants to learn to eat more healthy. The reason we have so many diseases, it's certainly to do with the food we eat. Those additives and preservatives are so powerful and so poisonous. Our system is not meant to consume that. People want to eat vegetables without poisons.

Where do you shop?
I like to buy organic produce. I buy my fish at a good fish market, small markets I feel have a better quality. But I have to be careful because I'm teaching people how to cook and most people buy their fish at Publix. I have to be conscious of that -- they have to cook with what they buy at the supermarket. In this town, people go to Publix so I have to teach them how to use that stuff.

During the class I went to, you used a piece of PVC pipe to make one dish and pointed out that people could save money by using that instead of a fancy, overpriced tool from Williams-Sonoma. Any other kitchen tools you get from Home Depot?
The PVC pipe for molds for cakes and desserts... A wallpaper scraper for a cutting board ... Hmm.... and a torch, mostly for creme brulee.

What are five favorite local restaurants? Places you'd take out-of-towners?
Casa De Angelo, I love that; 3030 at the Harbor Beach Marriott; Canyon, I love Canyon; Bistro Mezzaluna, and.......J. Marks, as a casual restaurant. Atmosphere-wise Canyon is the #1 place.

But fine dining is a thing of the past, I have to tell you that. Casual dining is where it is at now. It's replacing the fine dining. There's not enough corporate money to support fine dining anymore, not enough money. When I retired from the restaurant business in 1997 I kind of saw the end of fine dining in South Florida. Let's face it, people want to eat and leave. They used to want to come in and spend the whole night with us. The men would come in all dressed up and the women had such beautiful dresses. Not that long ago, 10-12 years ago the dining scene changed. People go out to eat in jeans and t-shirts

I notice a lot of local chefs do guest-teaching at your school -- Angelo Elia, Dean Max... Are you also close friends with them?

We are professional buddies, I don't hang out on weekends with chefs.

What do you do for fun?
I don't know, I end up cooking all the time. I don't boat or anything like that. I like my life the way it is.

Do you find yourself critiquing every meal when you go out to eat?
I'm not critical at all. I used to think that way when I was in the restaurant business. I used to analyze what the competition was, the way they'd be, but now I don't even think about it. I don't want to think about how it's made -- I want to enjoy it. I don't enjoy anymore thinking "they should have done it this way." I just sit down, I don't talk about food.

Do you have a guilty pleasure, like McDonald's cheeseburgers or Dairy Queen? 
No, I wouldn't eat that but I like my wine, I love good wine and chocolate mousse. I make it myself. I know how to make it perfect, so I can't go anywhere else. I need a perfect mousse. Dairy Queen, I have never been to one.

What about a diner?
I would go to a diner, and eat a safe thing like an omelet.

Can we play a game of free association? I'll say a chef's name, and you say the first thing that comes to mind.
OK

Dean Max?
He's outstanding.

Allen Susser?
Very creative.

Daniel Boulud?
Fantastic, absolutely a master chef.

Paula Deen?
No comment. Well, Paula Deen is a, I don't know, she's a great showman. A great television personality. Cooking, I don't totally agree with her but She's doing great.

Bobby Flay?
I don't watch him so I don't know much about him.

Mark Militello?
[No answer]

Ferran Adria?
He's a genius, he works on one single recipe for a month. He's the Beethoven, the Vivaldi. I think Alain Ducasse is like that. Joel Robuchon is the greatest genius who ever lived. When I talk to them, I feel like I'm not even in the same profession. They really are geniuses.

Well, thanks for your time. I will post this on our blog. By the way, are there certain blogs that you read every day?
No, I don't, I don't have time. I follow magazines.

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