AFM: Please give us your background story. Tell us about Chicago, and as your Twitter description says: "Cali Born...AZ Grown."
SE: I was born in Long Beach and raised in Tempe. Very proud to have been raised in Arizona, and to watch our state grow on every level. I left Phoenix to work in one of the great culinary cities in the world. Chicago was an amazing experience. Full of highs and lows that have helped me become the man I am today. I miss the city terribly at times. Everything around you in a metropolis can be viewed or looked upon for inspiration in your daily life or at work. The amount of community gardens in neighborhoods alone was incredible. You can be walking to the EL and see veggies growing in a garden box and then walk in to work and in your cooler is the same produce that one of the farmers dropped off that morning. The architecture and the sheer size of some of the buildings alone is inspiring. I worked for some amazing, chefs while I lived there. Chris Pandel, Raymond Stanis, Jared Lee Van Camp and Rick Tramonto just to name a few. I always believed in seasonal, local cooking and Chicago epitomizes that philosophy. I am honored and proud to have been a resident of that remarkable city.
AFM: We’re asking you to brag for a moment. How did you get to be so darn phenomenal at doing American food?
SE: I asked a lot of questions, staged a bunch at as many places I could. I made mistakes, the trick is only to make a mistake once though. I read, read, and then read some more. Before the Internet, I would be at the library or used books stores looking to find something I could learn from. At one point in time. I had library cards from Phoenix, Tempe, Boston (I still owe money to them I think) and Chicago. I would look for books on the history of food in cultures or the history-specific cuisines. I love the smell of a book as you turn the pages. I cooked at home. I was a line cook, and I could hardly afford to go out so I would hit the market and cook. I believe that we as a country are a melting pot of cultures that have melded together over the last few centuries to define what American food is. We eat a whole lot more than just meat and potatoes and we have many cultures that have come to our shores to thank for that.
AFM: The bone-in pork chop is a work of art and a must-have item on the Pink Pony menu. Please indulge us and describe the dish.
SE: Well, I love pork. Pork shoulder, neck and the head are my most favorite, but a good caramelized pork chop is comforting, I grew up eating pork chops. It was one of my favorite dinners as a kid. I serve it with good buttery mashed potatoes some griddled bok choy grown by McClendon’s Select and a rich bacon broth. To cut the richness of everything, I throw some fresh parsley leaves and a few strands of pickled onion in there too! I am actually getting ready to change from bok choy as soon as I know bok choy is no longer available. But the potatoes, pork and jus will all be there!