Interview with Chef Joe Truex of Repast - Atlanta

October, 2007

Antoinette Bruno: When and why did you start cooking? What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Joe Truex: I worked in restaurants during college while studying microbiology. My mom inspired me to pursue food as a career.

AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
JT: I did a six month externship at Le Cirque for Daniel Boulud, and worked at The Plaza Hotel in Basil, Switzerland. I worked at The Peninsula in New York and with The Fireman Group, opening the Brooklyn Diner and Redeye Grill, and at The Cambridge Hotel in Cambridge, New York. In Georgia I worked at the Swisshotel and Château Élan Winery.

AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
JT: I went to CIA. It depends. You need to work in this business before you go, and if you do go, pick a good school or forget it.

AB: Who are some of your mentors?
JT: Daniel Boulud – he exposed me to the brigade system and a high level of cuisine.

AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JT: Knock on doors. If you really want it, you will find an opportunity. You should over-shoot your goals – if someone asks you to of ten things, do twelve. If they ask you to come in at twelve, come in at ten. Always comply with your chef.

AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under appreciated or underutilized?
JT Celery heart leaves: they’re bitter, fresh, and have so much personality.

AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
JT: Smokey, sweet and salty, like smoked paprika, chocolate, and salt.

AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
JT: My combi-oven, because I don’t need to be here twenty four hours a day. And my Pacojet.

AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created of borrowed and use in an unusual way?
JT: Freeze drying: I use the freezer to remove moisture and concentrate flavor.

AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
JT: The Craft Cookbook by Tom Colicchio.

AB: What are your favorite restaurants-off the beaten path-in your city?
JT: I go to Buford Highway for the real deal stuff: Pho 96 for pho and China Delight for dim sum.

AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JT: Dining has replaced church in a lot of people’s lives. It’s an experience. They don’t just go to eat anymore. As for food, I appreciate the complexity of simplicity.

AB: Which person in history would you most like to cook for?
JT: I would like to cook for James Beard because I love his sensibility. I would like to experience Ferran Adria’s cooking.

AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
JT: I’d be a wine maker, a musician or a farmer.

AB: Where do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?
JT: I’d like to be carving out a niche for our style of cuisine with other businesses.