Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Friday, March 09, 2007


posted by snekse
Paul Urban is the Executive Chef at Darwin Bistro & Catering. As part of what may become a regular feature here, I sent him a list of questions just to see how he'd respond.

If you'd like to see more articles like this one, please let me know. Next month I think we might turn this into a game. I'll post the questions and answers - you have to guess who it is.

20 Questions with Paul Urban

Did you cook growing up? What inspired you to become a chef?
i did cook growing up but it wasn't out of necessity. my mother and father are excellent in the kitchen. lot's of things inspired me to become a chef. i love the lifestyle and i love that it is a continuing art that is limitless.

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?
i can't really pick just one. i learned a ton of the business side from my boss, Darwin and i learned a lot of advanced cookery from chef john ursick [ED: Stokes Southwestern Grill] and chef tina powers [ED: Metropolitan Community College]

What is your philosophy on food and dining?
it feels silly to call food an art but at times it can be. dining is an enjoyment and when you can bring artful food into an enjoyable atmosphere i believe you have reached your goal

What are your favorite dining spots and/or dishes in the city? Why?
dicoppia was my favorite spot in omaha and it broke my heart when they closed up shop. i ate at their old location years ago and i knew i wanted to cook food like that. i love sushi japan because of the quality, i love la buvette because of the atmosphere, (plus their chef [ED: Paul Kulik] is a genius) other than that, my mom's food, whatever she cooks would be my favorite dish in omaha.

What cities/restaurants/chefs have you always wanted to try food from?
new york is an obvious choice, i was there this summer and really enjoyed myself. i am of course a fan of the big boys, ie: alinea, french laundry, nobu, el bulli, fat duck, etc. i'm planning on traveling to spain as soon as i can get a chance!

Favorite kitchen tools or gadgets (besides your knives) and why?
our big daddy immersion blender is a very good friend of mine as well as the robot coupe because it makes soups and sauces so much easier. the chinois and the tammy are my ultimate tools of refinement and i do love them as well.

Your 3 favorite knives in your bag (Brand, style, size, etc)?
my 10" shun chef knife, my henckel 6" utility and my henckel filet knife

Favorite or first cookbook?
my first cookbook was an old school julia child that i still use to this day. i'm of course a big fan of the french laundry, bouchon and escoffier

Favorite or new food/spices/cuisines/techniques you're incorporating into your dishes at the moment?
we staff a lot of very diverse and talented chef's at the bistro so i'm blessed with a lot of new and inventive input everyday. i hold a high respect for japanese cuisine and would love to incorporate it into the menu as well

What food/dish/whatever will never make it on your menu? Why?
i will never make beef wellington. my sister passed a few years back and it's the last thing i remember her cooking for my family. it would just feel weird

What was the last menu item to get the ax? Why?
the last item to get the ax were our smoked pork quesadillas. i didn't enjoy making them and they didn't sell all that well.

Where do you find inspiration?
i find inspiration from many different aspects. childhood memories with my family, watching my nephew make a bologna and dorito sandwich, my grandma's old school belgian food, grandpa's german food, etc. our front of the house manager, jessica is one of my biggest inspirations. we graduated from culinary school together and she has a brilliant mind that defines beauty. any time you can incorporate that into food, it's amazing. oh, and i love to eat

Do you read food blogs or forums? If so, which ones?
i read gastronomic fight club and chowhound

Restaurant reviews are a touchy subject for chefs and restaurant owners. What would be an ideal way to review a restaurant?
you've done a great job so far. everything is fair, good points and bad. chef's and restaurant owners like to think that they do no wrong. i want to know what part of a patrons dining experience was lacking so we can fix the problem

What are your thoughts on the Food Television Network?
it's turning the same way mtv did. less and less food, more and more gimmicks

Which Iron Chef would you choose to do battle against? Why? Any local chefs you'd like to do battle against?
i would like to go up against either mario batal or old school morimoto just so i could meet them after the show. they'd probably kick my ass but i'd go through it just to meet them

When at home, what do you like to eat? Do you do the cooking?
i eat ramen noodles and canned goods. i'm only home for about an hour before i fall asleep and ramen goes good with everything.

What might surprise people to find in your fridge or cupboards?
the lack of anything really good except for about 6 cases of diet dr. pepper and any leftovers from when i eat at my mom's.

Do you have a recipe you can share with us?
boil ramen noodles, add one tablespoon butter and one teaspoon soy sauce. top with two overeasy eggs and enjoy.

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