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Chef Lion Gardner on Food Trends, His Favorite Ingredient and More

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Trend I love:

The chef-driven, fast-casual trend. It’s a cool way to elevate the food you eat every day. You get to use unusual ingredients and techniques in a setting that’s less esoteric or expensive. It adds to your quality of life to eat good food.

 

Trend that should go away:

The farm-to-table thing has been beaten pretty hard, not in terms of the philosophy behind it, but in the marketing, the tagline. Good restaurants have been doing that for years without seeking credit.

 

Ingredient I love:

Smoke. The transformative powers are beyond what you can achieve with anything else. It definitely doesn’t work with everything, but sometimes you get some unexpected results. It’s a totally different eating experience. And there’s a bit of ritual to it that appeals because it’s so primal, such a part of our history.

 


RELATED: What can’t this Wilmington chef live without?


 

Tool I can’t live without:

The tool that is most useful to me is the chef’s knife that I’ve had for the past 11 years. You can find a work-around for almost anything, but you can’t do anything without a good knife.

 

Favorite cookbook:

“Au Pied de Cochon,” which means “The Foot of the Pig.” It’s all about Quebecois-, Montreal-style food—heavy, cold-weather cuisine. It’s very unapologetic in its approach to food and cooking, maybe a little extreme in terms of sheer gluttony, but that’s what makes it fun to read. It’s just really fun stuff for a chef to look at and play around with and think about.

 

Favorite restaurant:

Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, of course. I grew up outside Philly playing ice hockey—I love that culture and the cold weather—so I went to Montreal on vacation with my wife. It was freezing out. We had an incredibly good meal there, and afterward I’m thinking, It just doesn’t get any better. Then two guys sat at the table next to us, with their skates slung over their shoulders so they could skate home. I loved that. It really couldn’t have gotten any cooler.

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