On the Line: Nathan Coulon of True Food Kitchen, Part Two
Photo by Kevin Lara
Today, we continue our Q&A with True Food Kitchen's executive chef, Nathan Coulon.
If you missed the first part, click here to read it. And stay tuned tomorrow for a recipe.
What show would you pitch to the Food Network?
It would be an eat/drink/travel show. I would travel by motorcycle around the country and show the audience where our food comes from, offer tips and recipes using food grown naturally from the earth. And then I would eat it.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Bugs. I wish I could say I tried them as a delicacy while walking through an open-air market in Thailand, but unfortunately, I ate bugs unintentionally while riding my motorcycle with my mouth open. Lesson learned.
You're making an omelet. What's in it?
I like my omelets simple; they're usually filled with fresh veggies.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Fresh tortillas, especially if they're still warm. In that case, I'll buy 10.
Weirdest customer request:
A customer asked to have each ingredient weighed out. Cooking isn't a perfect equation; if it were, then anybody could be a chef.
Favorite OC restaurant(s) other than your own:
Again, I have to plead the fifth on this one. I'm not one to play favorites, but I can appreciate something good when it's in front of me.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
As a chef, I deal with many people with varying tastes, and I go to great lengths to make every one of my guests happy. This can sometimes be a stressful task, but when it comes down to it, it's one of the things I like best about my profession. It's more exciting to be challenged every day than fall into a routine, especially in cooking.
What would the last meal on Earth be?
Cassoulet--a French dish with beans, tomato sauce, sausage and duck topped with fried bread crumbs.
Who's your hero? Culinary or otherwise?
I've always looked up to my grandfather; he taught me everything I know.
What cuisine that you are unfamiliar with would you want to learn more about and why?
Indian. I love to eat it, but I don't know how to cook it.
How has True Food Kitchen's tie-in with Dr. Andrew Weil influenced the way you cook?
It has made me much more aware of the ingredients I use and their health benefits. It has also challenged me to get creative and work with fresh ingredients and flavors in a variety of new ways.
What ingredients or equipment will never be found in a True Food Kitchen?
Most ingredients used in "molecular gastronomy"--basically, no added colors, flavor enhancers, acidity regulators, thickeners, etc.
What ingredients do you use in True Food Kitchen that aren't likely to be found in other restaurant kitchens?
Tempeh, a natural soy product from Indonesia that's become a popular vegan ingredient and is similar in texture to cornmeal. We use tempeh in many of our vegetarian dishes.
What dish would you tell newcomers to try first?
I would suggest starting your meal with our herb hummus; it's outstanding.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
If my culinary talent didn't pan out for me, I would probably be a doctor right about now. As challenging and rewarding a profession in medicine would have been, I am very happy with the way things worked out.
What were you doing before you cooked at True Food Kitchen; that is, what's your background, culinary or otherwise?
My professional experience began at my grandparents' restaurant in San Diego called the Belgian Lion, which served French and Belgian cuisine. These are the cuisines that comprise my culinary background. Before this, I was the executive chef for the Andaz San Diego.
If you weren't cooking for a health-conscious audience, what would you make that disregards all rules of nutrition?
Braised prime short ribs cooked with red wine and veal stock. You can't beat anything that's slow-cooked in all those flavors.
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
Forget culinary school, where you'll end up spending a lot of money to get a low-paying job. Work in kitchens and get real-life business experience. It's just like getting ahead in any other job: To get to the top, you have to start at the bottom.
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
One thing I know for sure is that you can find me in the kitchen!
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