Compliments of the Chef with Merlin Verrier

Compliments of the Chef with Merlin Verrier

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Verrier at his restaurant, Graham Elliot, in Chicago's Near North Side.

December 6, 2013
CF: I'm best known for my _______ style of cooking but I can make one hell of a _______. 
MV: Californian; lobster corn dog 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
MV: Compassionate, loyal, honest, and easygoing. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now? 
MV: Our newest venture Primary Food & Drink, which is opening in Greenwich, Connecticut later this year. I'm moving out there to open the restaurant as its executive chef, which I'm really excited about. Growing up on the West Coast, I took for granted the special bounties the Pacific provides. I remember going to fish markets as a child and picking out live spot prawns from a tank; we always chose the ones with the largest roe sacks. Chicago is the farthest east I've ever cooked, so I'm intrigued to see what hyper-seasonal items are available on the East Coast. Half the fun of cooking is working with great ingredients, and I'm just so pumped to see what fruits of the land and sea make their way into our restaurant. 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
MV: Magnus Nilsson at Fäviken in Sweden. Fäviken is about 50 miles outside of Stockholm in the middle of nowhere, and it has a real hunting lodge kind of feel. They take about 20 people at a time to stay the night and experience all of the cooking and butchery they do there. They also have their own farm where everything is harvested from. It's a real experience. 

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
MV: I like to try as many dishes as I can. For example, I'd rather order all of the appetizers to share with my party than have one entrée per guest. Sometimes the best things are only three or four bites. It makes you really savor the flavor and almost crave it after it's done, which I think is great. When you get something that is too big, it has a way of weighing you down to the point where you don't want it ever again. 

CF: Is there anything you won't order out? 
MV: Steaks, because I can cook them at my house just as well if not better. 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
MV: Take the chef's personality out of the equation when conducting a review. Base your review on the food alone, not on whether you like the chef or not. If you really like the chef, it's going to be hard for you to give an unfavorable review and vice versa. 

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs. 
MV: To be successful, you have to love what you do. Don't get into cooking to become the next Rachael Ray. If you're chasing fame, your food will never be good because it will lack passion. 

CF: Favorite fro-yo combo? 
MV: I actually just like it plain. The addition of ingredients tends to fight with the flavor of that delicious and simple fro-yo taste. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like? 
MV: I don't like marinara sauce. I don't know if it's because I'm allergic to it or it's too acidic, but compared to what it's like in Italy, I think it's pretty overwhelming and probably super bastardized by Americans. 

CF: Thick or thin patty? 
MV: Super thin on a griddle. 

CF: What's for family meal tonight? 
MV: Usually breakfast because it's good any time of the day.