Meet the Chef: Jason Dallas

Jason Dallas

Jason Dallas

Title: Chef de cuisine at Chez Philippe at The Peabody.

Age: 39.

Hometown: Green Bay, Wis. Moved to Memphis at age 5.

Who or what was your first cooking inspiration? My grandmother making jam and stuff like that. Raspberry jam. ... Just the smell would fill the house. I remember eating like a half a loaf of white bread, just toasted and putting that jam on there.

What was the first thing you ever cooked or baked? French toast. That was my big thing as a kid.

What made you decide to become a chef, and when was that? I was living in Philadelphia, and I used to go to the Reading Terminal Market, the Italian market. Just being inspired and really wanting to cook, I'd go to these markets. I used to be really into photography, and I would go there and take pictures. I'd just get all excited. They'd have a butcher there with a whole carcass of lamb split in half and things like that. ... You could go to Chinatown and you'd walk through and see all these different ingredients. Eel swimming in tanks. Things I never was exposed to. ... That just inspired me to want to go to culinary school.

What was your first food-related job? Dundee's in Germantown washing dishes.

What was something important that a fellow chef taught you? A chef is only as good as the last plate they put out. ... Patrick Dore, my executive chef at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle.

What is the Jason Dallas style? Classically grounded in old European dishes. I like to take something like that and take ingredients you get from the region you're in, fresh local markets and ... put an updated twist on it to make it new.

What do you cook or bake at home, if anything? On Wednesdays at the (Memphis) Botanic Garden, I found they have this great farmer's market. I love to go there on my day off and just walk through and have no idea what I'm gonna cook, no pre-determined "I'm gonna buy this or that." Just walk through and pick things out as they kind of click to me and go home and put it together and come up with a dinner.

What's your favorite food? Fresh seafood.

What's your least favorite food? Wilted, spoiled. Anything that's bad. Bad produce that's past its prime. That kind of stuff.

Chez Philippe at The Peabody is at 149 Union; 529-4188.

-- Michael Donahue: 529-2797;

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