Nick: Interview (and Nick’s mother’s macaroni cheese in the next post)

DSC_0461Nick is the one in the middle. I took this photo on our trip to Chicago at Christmas.

A little bit about Nick – he is Chicago born and bred. Nick still lives in Chicago and was the best food and events tour guide when we were there. As the man really knows about his food I thought for my second interview it would be nice to have a proper mid-west food Q&A. Hit it Nick:

Growing up – Food was a huge part of my life growing up. My parents divorced when I was pretty young so big family meals didn’t happen too often when I was little. They were generally reserved for the weekends when we would travel to see my step-dad and step-siblings. On these weekends my mom would usually cook massive feasts and from a young age I would help her with the preparation. Cooking with my mother are some of my fondest memories of childhood.

Likes/ dislikes– I think my favorite (American spelling) meals growing up were the casseroles that my mom would sometimes make. Chicken and rice with broccoli, and macaroni and cheese with ham and peas were some of the more memorable ones. I have always been a pretty adventurous eater so I don’t really remember any meals that I hated. I guess I would have to say, when I was very very young, I disliked when my mom made steak. I couldn’t chew it enough to swallow at that point so I would chew and chew then take another bite. After a few minutes I would have a giant wad of meat in my mouth that ended up in my napkin. A bit gross, but kinda cute!

School lunches – I was fortunate enough to avoid school lunches. The lunches that were provided were not very appetizing and I remember the lunch lady being very ugly, just like in cartoons! My parents always packed me a lunch from home. Usually I had a sandwich, an applesauce, a cereal bar, and a juice box (always 100% juice). I remember being jealous that some of the other kids got to have more junk food in their lunches  (now I am grateful that my parents wouldn’t allow it)

On cooking – I love cooking. I almost attended culinary school and ended up working in restaurant kitchens while at university.

I now rarely cook. I would love to cook more but my tiny apartment/kitchen makes it rather difficult to prepare  anything other than basic meals. My next place will definitely have a bigger kitchen so that I can cook more.

My favorite thing to cook is any form of smoked meat. In college my roommates and I altered our grill to turn it into a smoker. On Friday nights I would rub a pork shoulder with spice rub and then we would go out to the bars. When the night was winding down we would stumble home, get the coals going, and place the meat in the smoker. We would take turns waking up every few hours to add more coals. By Saturday evening we had delicious pulled pork. This tradition has since been tamed a bit but my dad and I will still smoke meats at his farm. We wake up early, throw the meat on, and go about our day. Every few hours we add more coals and have a beer together.

Favourite food memories – I have a favorite food memory with each of my parents.

My mother took me to Le Bernardin in New York City, one of the nations premier seafood restaurants, for lunch when I graduated high school. We had, what to this day, is still the best meal I have ever eaten. It was a special moment on a special trip for the two of us as I prepared to move out on my own for the first time.

For as long as I can remember my father has taken me to Superdawg, a drive-in restaurant in Chicago that is known for hot dogs. They bring you your food and you sit and eat it in the car. Besides serving the best hot dog in the world there is also something very special about sitting in the car with my dad. We pass the ketchup bottle back and forth as we take turns squirting a line of red onto each individual fry (chip). This is a tradition that we still enjoy and it is really special to me.

Thanks so much Nick. In my next post I will include a recipe about how to make a version of Nick’s mother’s pea and ham macaroni cheese. OM NOM NOM.