Location: Chicago, IL Current job:moto Restaurant Position: Executive Chef Years in the industry: 12 Notable awards / employers: Silver Medal Winner Junior Hot Foods Competition / Auberge de L’Ile, Alinea, L2O, and moto
Everyone has a story. Tell us how you knew you wanted to become a chef?
Honestly, I always enjoyed food and loved cooking. However, I never really knew I wanted to become a chef until I got myself into it. I would have never done that if it wasn’t for my first daughter being born to kind of kick me in the butt and get me to go to school to actually learn a craft. You know, something other than dead-end jobs.
What is your inspiration and motivation in your day-to-day routine?
To push boundaries! To cook and do things that I have not done before all while still paying homage to what makes me most passionate, which is my heritage.
What is the most difficult part of your day as a chef?
It’s actually not the cooking part. It’s everything else from “curveballs” at work to personal things going on outside of work.
What are the most rewarding things about your profession?
One of the most rewarding things that can happen is when the customers come down to take a tour of the kitchen and tell you that your food changed not only their perspective on food but was also a life changing experience in general. There can be no greater reward after working as hard as the cooks and I do all day. So when we hear that at the end of it all, it makes it all worth it.
What is your food philosophy?
To push the boundaries of American cuisine and rediscover it’s ingredients. I feel sometimes other chefs focus too much on European ingredients and cuisine rather than focusing on the cuisine that is right in front of them, which is ours. America is a “melting pot”. We all come from somewhere and it shows in our cuisine. For example, Louisiana has a very high French and Spanish influence, however, it is not France nor Spain. It has morphed into something completely different but you can still see and taste the influence. So, I believe we should hold on to that influence – just don’t mimic it completely. We need to pay homage to our heritage.
What is your leadership philosophy?
My leadership philosophy is simple. I treat my staff as family; we are together 12 to 14 hours a day in an already stressful industry. So, therefore, rather than make it as I like to call it “more Military”, it’s a touch more relaxed. It is still work and we have to accomplish a lot but that doesn’t mean we cannot all enjoy our day and our company. We usually listen to music through-out our day until service time and then we get a little more serious. However, any chance we get to have a little fun with our day we do it. Richie Farina taught me that!
What is your claim to fame?
Rediscovering American Cuisine! Rediscovering my heritage! A couple of dishes on the menu at Moto that showcase this are Chicken & Dumplings, Trout & Grits and the Oyster Bar. What is your most unusual source of inspiration for cooking?
moto is known for their playfulness with food science. Who is responsible for bringing the cutting-edge ingredients and methods to the table?
What is your most memorable meal or food related memory?
There are too many to count. As a boy growing up in the American South, there were countless food related memories. My grandparents grew most of their produce that they ate in their backyard gardens. I remember making red eye gravy for the first time with my grandfather to making fried chicken for the first time with my mother. We had way too many whole hog barbecues to count and eating fresh peaches to fresh mountain apples to boiled peanuts. I love and respect it all and would not trade a single memory. It is very difficult to pick a “most memorable” when all of them were.
What was the biggest ”break” in your career?Can you share what you did that set you apart from your competition and how you prepared for the opportunity?
The biggest break in my career was when Richie Farina wanted to make me his Sous Chef. What separated me from my competition is simple, just be the best and outshine everyone else. There should be nothing you will not do, every task you do is fast, efficient and the entire staff will follow behind you. Not only to be the “next you” but to learn from you.
What makes your team at moto different from others?
The camaraderie and the family! We are all in this together as a team and I could not do it with out my team. No chef can. However, I believe some chefs need to tell this to their staff more often. Here at moto, our employee retention is high comparative to other restaurants. I treat everyone I am around with the utmost respect; like they are my family; a little “southern hospitality” as I like to call it. Sometimes saying “please” and “thank you” can go a long way with your staff. Just because I made it to Chef does not make me a ”god” and unapproachable to where I make it weird and awkward for the cooks to come and talk to me. I try to keep an open door policy.
moto is known for it’s revolutionary cuisine – breaking borders and boundaries. Who is on your recipe development team?
I come up with the recipes mostly on a daily basis. There isn’t really a recipe development team. We have innovative meetings with the whole staff – meetings where we discuss what’s in-season to what we can do about altering ingredients to cooking methods in order for us to give the customer the greatest experience.
What do you look for in potential team members? Where do you go to recruit?
With potential team members I look for experience, passion and drive. I will recruit from anywhere; there is talent from all over not just schools.
If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be?
The disrespect. Some chef’s in our industry find it necessary to drive their team and push them harder by yelling and disrespecting their cooks. I would like to see that change by empowering the staff you work with and by teaching your staff rather than yelling at them until they get it right.
What is on your kitchen tool / machinery wish list?
moto has it all. However, I am always looking for new and innovative tools and machinery to push the boundaries of cuisine.
What are your pet peeves in the kitchen at home, a friend’s kitchen, and at work?
Working dirty! Working clean just gives me a clear mind; I know where everything is by second nature when I am clean and organized. So, if I am at a friend’s kitchen to the kitchen at work; if there is someone working sloppy… it will drive me nuts. Everything should be nice, neat and organized.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
Stay calm, stay focused and push.
Who were your culinary role models growing up and who are they today?
My culinary role models growing up were my mother and my grandfather. Today my role models are the same but I have tons of respect towards the other chefs in the industry but they are not my role models. I do not want to be like them, as they should not want to be like me. We are all influenced by one another; hence, you can see it in our cuisine but we are not the same. We are all our own individuals and showcase that through our food and heritage.
Culinary School…Yea or nay?
Yea, it gives you a good base knowledge about cuisine and can get your foot into several doors.
What are some of your favorite food driven books and magazines?
Alinea, Le Bernardin, Ferran Adria and D.O.M cookbooks just to name a few.
What is your definition of success in our industry?
Whatever makes you happy! If you love barbecuing then be a pit master. There is nothing wrong with that, as a matter of fact I have lots of respect for all aspects of our industry and love all food. Food is a passion and a way of life, so if you love what you are doing then you are successful. You do not have to be named best in the world to be a success.
What are your culinary and career goals? Life goals?
Well I have accomplished a lot of my goals to date. However, I would love to own a restaurant(s) that are solely mine which would probably be my end career goal.
Name one chef we should be on the lookout for in the future?
HA! Hopefully MYSELF!
How did you find Chef’s Roll and what urged you to join?
I have always seen photos and posts that Chef’s Roll has done and liked what you do for our industry so it drove me to join. Thanks and keep it up!
What’s next for you?
Keep innovating, keep pushing and keep the passion!
Learn more about Executive Chef Chris Anderson on his Chef’s Roll profile HERE. * Chef Anderson will be participating in the Chef’s Roll: Chef’s Plate culinary competition in Chicago. Read more about Chef’s Plate on our events page HERE. Are you a Chef, Culinary Photographer, Food Stylist, Food Blogger, Farmer, or other Culinary Professional? Join & be featured on our network HERE.