Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Jill Davie: It was mostly my mom. I wouldn’t eat anything. I hated meat, and my mom’s idea of cooking was thirty seconds in the microwave. My parents had dinner parties, and I started to cook for them. At 12 years old I knew I wanted to be a chef.
AB: Did you attend culinary school? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs today?
JD: The Culinary Institute of America for me was a really fantastic thing and seemingly the fast track for being a chef. It was a great experience, but you have to be in a position to take out of it what they give you. You need experience working in the kitchen and even college is helpful before going to culinary school.
AB: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
JD: Josie Le Balch. Every day for five years I have worked side by side with her. She has been a wealth of information.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JD: I try to work on a level that I want to eat at. I strive to be great at what I do.
AB: Are there any special ingredients that you especially like?
JD: I like horseradish, if you use it in the right way. The pungency can dissipate subtly, and it can actually be sweet. Also, Meyer lemons have such a distinctive flavor profile. They’re prominent yet subtle.
AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
JD: My sieve for straining and clarifying. My spice grinder – it’s like a coffee mill but for grinding fresh spices.
AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
JD: What do you want to be when you grow up? What is your absolute strength? Where do you fit in a line?
AB: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JD: Exercise, wear comfortable shoes, and drink a lot of water. Twelve-hour days are draining, and burnout is the number one problem for chefs.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
JD: The Dean and Deluca Cookbook. It’s a fun book to read. I love the little stories and snippets of information.
AB: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
JD: Florence has amazing Italian cuisine and markets. I love the little cafes. I also like Barcelona for tapas and San Sebastian. Also, Chicago and New York have an immense amount of talent.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants –off the beaten path – in your city?
JD: Christos has Greek food with Western influences. I like the grilled octopus. Phillipe’s has the best French dip sandwich. Soot Bull Jeep on Vermont for Korean. I like Lara’s for their mole, Gilbert’s for their Fernando Burrito, and Rays Buren for cheap eats.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
JD: I see chefs getting back to the basics and over the steakhouses.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
JD: Here in Los Angeles with a child. Perhaps having my own restaurant or my own television show. And working with the food I love.