Has food ever made you cry?
Almost. I had a meal in Tokyo that just floored me. I couldn’t speak. It was pretty damn close to crying. I had never experienced anything like that, and I actually went back a year later and ate there again and had the same exact experience.
Where was this?
It’s a sushi restaurant called Sushi Ya, which is funny because “ya” means “shop,” and if you ask people on the street where Sushi Ya is, they just laugh at you. But it’s actually the name of the restaurant. Eight seats, two employees. It’s just amazing.
Rose’s Luxury is sort of famous for its line. What’s the longest you would wait in line for a meal?
I can’t say. The longest that I have was eight hours for Franklin Barbecue [in Austin]. We got there at 9 a.m., and they told us they were out and wouldn’t have any meat the rest of the day. So we went the next morning and got there at 5 a.m. It was worth it.
With both of your restaurants, it’s a destination, once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of your diners. Does that put pressure on you guys?
There’s a lot of pressure. Bon Appetit created a lot of pressure. The Washington Post created a lot of pressure to live up to the standard. But at the end of the day we’re not trying to live up to any standards except our own. We’re just focused on doing the best we can do.
What is the easiest, best thing you cook that someone at home could possibly replicate?
A Sungold tomato pasta. I love Sungold cherry tomatoes. They’re delicious when they’re in season, and the easiest thing to cook in a pan with butter, garlic and white wine. That’s it. It’s such an amazing ingredient, you don’t need anything else. Just pour it over pasta and it’s amazing.
What do customers ask for that just makes you roll your eyes?
I don’t know if there really is anything. We’re here to make them happy. Whatever their perception is, we’re trying to adapt to it. There are moments where a guest has crossed a line and been unfriendly to our staff, and that’s very different. That’s not an eye-roll moment — that’s a you-need-to-leave moment. But our job is to focus on making the guest’s experience as positive as possible.
If you could host any four people for dinner at Rose’s, who would they be?
Michelle and Barack Obama, Beyoncé and my mom — because we rarely get to eat dinner together.
Was there ever a moment where you thought you wouldn’t succeed as a chef?
Not succeeding is not an option. One of my mottos is: Nothing is impossible. If people figured out how to get to the moon, we have got to be able to figure out how to run a small business.
Have you ever heard advice or feedback from a customer that dramatically changed the way you did something?
Yeah, every day. Ten times a day. Absolutely. Tiny things to big-picture things. We listen to our guests nonstop.
When people finish a meal at one of your restaurants, what do you want them to be thinking about?
Hopefully not thinking about too much and just living in the moment of enjoyment. If they’re thinking, it’s probably either about something they didn’t enjoy or they’re taking it too seriously. There shouldn’t be too much thinking involved. It should be more feeling. And they should leave feeling a little lighter in their step, a little more enjoyment in their life.
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