What do you love most about Kingston?
I love the grittiness of it. It has this great urban feel that's really hard to put your finger on. I don't like sanitised travel. I don't want to be hanging out in some fancy community. I want to be meeting people and feeling like they've got a secret that I need to find out. That's what I feel like in Kingston... it's somewhere that I'm definitely not from but there's an urgency to find out more, and I love that.
Which Jamaican food do you love the most?
I'm a sucker for patties. I love jerk chicken, too, but I want it from Boston in Portland at the side of the road, not in a restaurant, eating out of aluminum foil. I don't want to sit in a restaurant where tourists go; I want to go where the locals go. Hellshire rocks! I think it's the best breakfast on earth... fried fish and Scotch bonnet, sign me up!
Who's your culinary hero?
I think it's probably because of the time that I came up, but Julia Child. She was such a pioneer. When I started cooking, it was a trade but she took it and turned it into a profession. She made people aware that this was something you could be proud of. When I first started, it was guys in T-shirts and now it's celebrity chefs.
Are you turned off by the term 'celebrity chef'?
It's just become this big broad brush that they paint a lot of people with and I think there are a lot of guys out there who have great public relation machines but don't necessarily have the basis of culinary skills. I'm all for these guys pushing the envelope but you need to understand the foundation of the cuisine and how to be able to cook a steak and a piece of fish right.
Why did you want to become a chef?
I started out washing dishes when I was 16 because I wanted money in my pocket. I hated doing dishes so much that I would beg my way into the kitchen and as soon as I got in, I realised that this is where I wanted to be. I did five years of culinary school in New York at the Culinary Institute of America and graduated in 1990. When I left, it was just when the Boston food scene was blowing up. I was lucky enough to work with some of the top guys in Boston...Tony Ambrose, Daniel Bruce at some of these great restaurants that were top-class. I learnt a lot. Now, I am partners in a restaurant development company with Kevin Charles O'Hara where we design, develop, start up, save, and turn around restaurants all over the country.
What's your beverage of choice?
I'm more of a seasonal beverage guy. I do a fair amount of tequila in the summertime. I move into the browns as the weather gets a bit cooler... a little scotch, a little bourbon. Wines are a constant.
What was your last major splurge?
I bought myself a new car — an Infiniti FX35. I spend a lot of time driving so I need a good car.
Share with us the title of the last book you read.
I'm a cyclist and I'm reading Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore right now. It's a book about the 1986 Tour de France.
How do you feel about the recent Lance Armstrong scandal that's made headlines?
He's a juicer, there's no question about it. He's the smartest guy out there but they're all guilty, everybody of his age and genre. It's cleaning up now which is great, but the fact that he was competing against all the other dopers and still kicking their ass, he's still a pretty amazing guy. And what he's done for cancer, no one can argue with his philanthropic side.
What kind of music are you into at the moment?
My music is just so diverse. Everything from Shaggy whom I just met to old-school cutting-edge stuff like The Smiths, Clash, The Pretenders — the 1980s, I love that stuff.
Share some places in your culinary black book.
Hellshire in Jamaica is definitely one of them. I was lucky enough to eat at El Bulli in Spain; Pierre Gagnaire in Paris was off the hook. But one of the best meals of my life was in a dirty alley in Bangkok, Thailand for 40 cents. Chiquitera in Italy at a little place at the side of the road where I had a plate of fresh anchovies and a bottle of local wine. I love that dichotomy of food because it is so experiential.
What are your favourite home comforts?
My girlfriend Mary runs a research lab and we both work busy hours so it's always great to come home and have a meal together. I have two dogs — a pitbull-collie mix and a Lab. Mary and my dogs are my home comforts.
What cologne are you splashing?
I'm au naturel man. In the restaurant business, if you are in the kitchen, guys are always like 'What the hell are you wearing, dude?' So I let it fly.
When and where did you last have a meal that thoroughly impressed you?
I had a meal the other night at a business meeting in Boston at a place called the Salted Pig. I went into the meeting with zero expectations, as I had never heard anything about this place and it was really rock-solid. They elevated the level and exceeded my expectations.
What's your philosophy?
Let it roll. Make today better than yesterday, if you can. When you can't, try again.