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20 questions with campagnolo roma's chef de cuisine jesse mcmillan

1. What is your first food memory?

Growing up I spent a lot of time on my grandparents farm. My grandmother used to snare wild rabbits and fatten them up in one of the veal pens in the huge, ancient barn. I remember playing with them as pets, and I also remember eating them, my grandmother cooked them shake and bake style. I guess you could say that I've always had the privilege of being connected to the food system.

2. Did you attend a culinary school? If so, where?

No, I've been lucky enough to find myself in kitchens where cooks were always learning, and in many cases had the freedom to experiment too. I have no doubt that there is value in a traditional education, but in my mind all routes are valid.

3. What was your first kitchen job?

I was working as a busboy in a huge restaurant downtown and decided that I wanted to give the kitchen a try. The chef was kind enough to let me into his kitchen to do prep and work lunches. I kept working in the front at night for a while though as the place was short staffed. It was pretty much my home for that year.

4. When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

Early on in my first kitchen job. The heat, the pressure, the intense camaraderie, I loved it all from the beginning.

5. Do you have a favourite ingredient?

I'm always excited about the next seasonal ingredient throughout the year but pork will always be there for me.

6. What chef or chefs inspired you? Both past and present.

Thomas Keller, Dominique Crenn, Dan Barber, Gabrielle Hamilton, Fergus Henderson

7. What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

Taking my dog for hikes, and exploring what's on offer from local breweries, brewing beer, eating at restaurants.

8. You can only listen to five albums for the rest of your life. What are they?

All Hail West Texas - The Mountain Goats 

Relationship of Command - At the Drive-in

Boxer - The National

Paul's Boutique - The Beastie Boys

Young Machetes - The Blood Brothers

9. How would you describe your style of cooking?

Technique is at the foundation of what I cook and I like to start with very simple, classic, tasty food. That said, I don't like to be tied down too tightly as there are so many sources of inspiration around, I'm a very curious person and I often cook off the cuff.

10. Tacos, Wings or Pizza?



11. Food Network. Yes or No?

In recent years I think they've made a shift towards more of a reality/talk show style. Obviously it's been profitable for them but I no longer count myself as a viewer.


12. What is your standard go-to alcoholic beverage?

Local beer, usually IPA's. It's really become our signature style out here on the west coast. A few places around town are doing a good job exploring the 'northeast' style IPA's so keep an eye out for those too(Twin sails' 'All the right Moves' among others, Superflux's 'Color and Shape', Bridge's 'Sidecut', Brassneck's 'Nebulousness') . If I'm not drinking beer it's probably something amaro based, or just a Fernet Branca.

13. What is your favourite movie of all time?

Oh man, tough question. I guess since this is a food interview I'll say 'Big Night'. A must see.

14. If you weren't a cooking for a living, what do you think you would be doing professionally?

Probably a trade, I'm most at home working with my hands. I couldn't do something 100% office based. I explored engineering in high school.

15. Do you have a most memorable meal?

Probably Del Posto in New York or The Willows Inn on Lummi Island. I was really blown away by the attention to detail in both cases.

16. What is one tip you would give a home cook to help improve their cooking? 

Taste Taste Taste Taste Taste Taste.

17. What inspires you?

The local farmers, fishers, foragers, makers, and the amazing products they bring through our doors. I also really like flipping through ancient cook books. My copy of La Technique is well worn.

18. What is your favourite local restaurant?

Burdock and co. They nail it all, hospitality, food, wine(seriously), atmosphere.

.19. What did you eat for dinner last night?

Monarch Burger.


20. What would you eat for your last meal?

Monarch Burger.

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