Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interviewee of the Week: Chef John Wayne Formica

This week we went out to the suburbs to interview Chef John Wayne Formica, also known as The Traveling Cowboy Chef.
It was a bad idea to write this post on an empty stomach.

I worked at Homestead, a farm-to-table restaurant, this past summer, which is where I met John.  He designed the menu there, utilizing elements from an organic rooftop garden. Being of Lebanese and Italian heritage with a lot of his life spent in Asia, Chef John's food is super unique with a lot of influences and great flavors. I used to joke that he was a kid with a toybox, but his toybox was exotic flowers and spices and meats. There wasn't a day I worked with him that he wasn't shoving some random food in my face, demanding I try it without explanation. One time he gave us a "buzz flower", a practical joke that left our mouths and throats numb. 
Now he is working on a much bigger project with partners he met while working at Sunda, E+O Food and Drink (Earth and Ocean), a restaurant (check out their awesome Facebook Page) in Mount Prospect featuring all sorts of delicious things, from pizza to a sushi bar. The front of the house is gorgeous, reflecting the earth/ocean theme (something close to Chef John's heart, as he often likes to combine fish and land animals in a single dish) with rustic wooden accents, bright blue walls and light fixtures resembling lobster traps. 
We were lucky enough to get a tour of the kitchen, where Chef explained to us how he utilizes powders to improve dishes, employs a sous-vide to slow-cook anything from beef with butter to whole chickens, and he even gave us a sneak peak inside his coolers, stocked with gorgeous fresh veggies.

We got to eat smoked pea hummus (amazing) and carrot cake balls rolled in coconut (OMG unfair-level amazing). He was just as enthusiastic as he was at Homestead, showing off his unusual cooking techniques and clever flavor combinations (seriously that smoked pea hummus was off the hook). 
He also told us all about his heritage, how he got into cooking, and what influences him. We were fascinated by the science behind his sous-vide and what kind of techniques he employed for cooking. It was a pretty informal interview but he said some good stuff that we can't wait to include on our episode on nourishment.
We have been sifting through the footage and will post a little behind-the-scenes clip of the interview with him, most likely early next week.

Also, if you haven't yet, please check out our kickstarter. We currently have 25 days left and are 17% funded. Please consider get awesome rewards!!

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