“People are fascinated with intricate, exotic preparations, but they love comfort food. What we’re doing is giving homey, Texas food a kick and serving it in our Mansion style.”
My dad was an innkeeper, which is how I got into cooking. He was with the parent company of Holiday Inn, and we lived all over the Midwest. He put my brother and me to work in the kitchen, but by the time I was in high school, I hated it.
After I graduated I went to Ball State University in Indiana, but I spent most of my time playing guitar because I really wanted to be a rock musician. After it became clear that I was just wasting my parents’ money, I dropped out and moved to Columbia, Missouri, where my brother was living. I stayed there for three years and had a blast. But my dad was worried sick that we were going to be bums, so he said, “Why don’t you come back to Louisville and we’ll open a family restaurant.” Well, the funding fell through and I was back working as a night chef at the Holiday Inn. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and then my dad read about a retired chef named Harvey Colgin who was going to teach a course at the community college. He insisted that I talk to him.
Within twenty minutes Mr. Colgin had changed my life. I had been turning and burning steaks and opening up Sarah Lee cheesecakes, and he told me I was going to learn about sauces and sautéing and garnishes. He had been an apprentice to the great French chef Escoffier in London in the twenties. He saw that I had something to me, and he got me into the Culinary Institute of America.
At the beginning of my career, I learned a lot from my cooks from Mexico. I would bring in all these products, and they would tell me about them. They taught me how to smoke ancho chiles and get this incredible flavor. When I came back