Tommy Centola [creolecajunchef]
When did you start cooking? Who got you started in this art?
I started when I was eight years old. My mother was the one who got me started.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in food?
At 16, my first job was at the now closed LeRuth's Restaurant in Gretna, Louisiana. Although I did not realize it then, but I would be a part of the food business for the next 34 years and counting.
Is there a website or blog where we can see something about you and your cooking?
My website is www.creolecajunchef.com. You can access my blog from the main page. Thre are also links to purchase my book "You can't keep New Orleans out of the Cook."
What culinary training have you received? Where have you learned more, in class or by experimenting?
All of my training have been self taught. Many times, I considered going to a culinary school. However, I found that by watching, reading and trying I could learn how to do anything.
How and where did you get your first job as a professional cook?
The first restaurant where I first spent time cooking was Cannon's Restaurant in Gretna, Louisiana. In a short time, I became kitchen manager and put in charge of menu development.
How would you define your style?
My style is New Orleans cooking. New Orleans cuisine is more than just Cajun. It is Creole, Italian, German, Jamacian and many more influences.
What is your favorite spice to cook with and why?
It depends on what I am cooking. I use a lot of Garlic, Basil, Oregano, Thyme and Paprika when I cook.
What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?
My signature dish are Crab Cakes usually with a remoulade or Hollandaise sauce.
What is your favorite cooking gadget?
My favorite gadget is my ricer that I use to make Mashed Potatoes with.
Who have been the biggest inspirations in your career?
The biggest inspirations were my mom, Mona, and Chefs Warren, Larry and Lee Leruth. The Leruths were very talented. It is hard to believe the amount of fun you can have by working in a 5 star restaurant. They made things look so easy.
If you were stranded on a deserted island for one year, what dish would ask to eat after your rescue?
A Filet with Bernaise sauce. Many of my favorite dishes are seafood but being on a deserted island, I am sure seafood would be available.
If any chef in the world could prepare a meal for you, who would it be?
Mario Batali. Having grown up in an Italian family, I can't think of a better choice.
Men versus women: do they cook differently?
I think that all people cook differently. Since everyone has different likes and taste, i don't think there are two people who cook exactly alike. That is what makes trying new restaurants fun.
Is there something you hate to see when you go to a restaurant as a customer?
Improperly trained waitstaff. My pet peeve is when a waiter ask at the end of the meal, "Do you want change?"
Do you sometimes find yourself eating junk-food?
Yes. Being diabetic, I occassionally have low blood sugars. Usually junk food helps bring my sugar back up quickly.
Who cooks in your home?
I do. My wife has cooked twice in 13 years. She does clean the kitchen when I am done.
What are some of your professional goals for the future?
I will probably write another cookbook. I am also working on a line of seasoning blends and apparel.
What would you say to a novice in the kitchen to help them get over their fear of cooking?
Cooking is easy. Find a recipe that you like and play with it.