Title: Executive chef, Spindini.
Hometown: Memphis, raised in West Memphis.
Who or what was your first cooking influence? My great-grandmother. I remember Wednesday night was a big food night in our family. A lot of times it centered around this stuff called wassetti. It’s a really kicked-up Hamburger Helper kind of thing with sausage and ground beef.
What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked? Probably powdered mashed potatoes. As far as the first thing my mom ever let me do was probably pour the potatoes in and stir them.
What made you decide to become a chef and when was that? I was in college for music education, and I started washing dishes at this restaurant — Lazzari Italian Oven in Jonesboro. And then one night we were a man down on the line or something. This chef put me up on the line and one thing led to another, and I never really looked back. It got ahold of me, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
What was something important that a fellow chef taught you? (Michael Patrick, executive chef at Mesquite Chop House) let me experiment on my own, but still allowed me to kind of find out for myself there is a reason why things are done the way they are. Everybody does things their own way. There’s a right and a wrong way to do it, but aside from that, there’s no right or wrong way.
What is the Joe Cartwright style? I like anything that you can add soy sauce and wasabi to. And you can add soy sauce and wasabi to a lot of stuff. ... If I had a tendency, it was to put an Asian twist on some stuff.
Describe a dish you created. I did this wasabi ice cream. ... A raw, almost scallopini, really thin slice of tuna wrapped around the ice cream. I used a reduced soy sauce and kind of thickened it up a little bit. It almost looked like chocolate sauce. And I had this green salad underneath it. It was spicy. Then it was kind of a sweet ginger and wasabi ice cream. “Tuna Sashimi.”
What do you cook or bake at home, if anything? Pizzas right out of the box.
What’s your least favorite ingredient? Carrots. They’re supposed to go in everything and I just don’t necessarily see the need for all that carrot.
Spindini is at 383 South Main; 578-2767.
Michael Donahue: 529-2797; email@example.com