Interview with Chef Nicole Krasinski of Rubicon - San Francisco

June, 2007

Antoinette Bruno:When and why did you start cooking? What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Nicole Krasinski:I was actually studying photography at DeAnza College, in Cupertino, CA and I just made bread and pastry for my friends and family as a hobby. When I moved to Chicago in 1996 to go to the Art Institute of Chicago and needed a summer job to earn some extra cash. I got a job at The Little Red Hen Bakery in Wicker Park and realized there that my real passion wasn’t for photography but for baking.

AB: Where have you worked professionally as a pastry chef?
NK: I worked as Pastry Chef at Tapawingo in Ellsworth, MI.

AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
NK: I wouldn’t recommend it – I didn’t go. I think all in all it’s a waste of money, but if it were less expensive I’d say it was worthwhile for the experience.

AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
NK: Nancy Kerry from The Little Red Hen Bakery. She taught me the principles of a bakery: how to use a scale, how to calculate a recipe and how to multitask.

AB: In which kitchens have you staged?
NK: I haven’t staged yet. I’d like to do it somewhere where there is an integrated farm and restaurant.

AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re interviewing them for a position in your kitchen?
NK: I ask them to tell me about their favorite dishes they like to go out and eat. You can tell a lot from the way they describe it and what details they choose to include.

AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
NK: Repetition is your best friend! To understand how a recipe works you have to experiment with it thousands of times.

AB: What are your top 3 tips for dessert success?
NK: Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want as your final result, use the right tool for the right task, and use the highest quality of ingredients that you can.

AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under appreciated or under utilized?
AB: I think honeycomb is particularly under utilized. It adds a bizarre texture to dishes that you couldn’t simulate on you own. My three go-to ingredients are Maldon salt, nuts, and chocolate.

AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
NK: Chocolate and jasmine, and anything with rose water.

AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
NK: A calculator – without it I’d be out of a job because there is so much math in a pastry kitchen.

AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
NK: The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming.

AB: Where to you like to go for culinary travel? Why?
NK: Japan – I have a really strong desire to go see what is going on there.

AB: What are your favorite restaurants-off the beaten path-in your city?
NK: Pizzetta 211 for pizza.

AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
NK: I think you should always consider at what you yourself want to eat. Cook for yourself but also be aware of what your clients are looking for and try to marry the two.

AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
NK: Something in health care.

AB: What does success mean for you?
NK: I would love to be on a farm making goat cheese. I’m looking for a more holistic lifestyle. I’d like to own my own business – a restaurant on a farm with goats.