Getting an interview with Chef Jonathan Wright was as difficult as, well, trying to eat hot and sour soup with chopsticks. But we forgive the delay; he's a busy guy. Tonight, as a matter of fact, you can catch him at Wine Spectator's Best of the Best presenting a tasting of his favorite recipes (along with 40 renowned chefs from across the country) paired with wines and champagnes. Since Wright's all about the Asian-fusion, you can bet his offering will be a bit exotic. And tomorrow, he'll be boogieing with Chefs Ming Tsai, David Munoz Rosillo of DiverXo in Madrid, and Tim Cushman of Miami's Tropical Chinese Restaurant. They'll al be cooking up Asian small plates to pair with inspired cocktails like the Asian Picnic.
Don't know who he is? Surely you've heard the award-winning executive chef has made his home at The Setai for a few years now. And he's proven he is just as comfortable whipping out Asian goodies at The Restaurant as he is French and Mediterranean-influenced tapas at The Grill. And you probably already drooled over his lobster and tarragon tortellini featured in Jacob Katel's photo essay.
But perhaps you weren't aware that Wright was born in Shropshire, England, where both of his grandparents were farmers. Wright was still in the United Kingdom, in Oxfordshire, to be exact, when he eventually became executive chef at Raymond Blanc's two-star Michelin restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat. But over the next few decades he traveled from Singapore to Larkspur, California, gaining recognition as one of the best hotel chefs by the James Beard folks, one of the best new chefs in America by Esquire, and one of the fab five chef's in America by gastronomic columnist John Mariani. He's also a Rising Star Chef.
So Wright's into truffles, Jelly Babies, boudin balls, and the Dark Side of the Moon. We've heard stranger things.
New Times: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served?
Jonathan Wright: A fragrant white truffle, shaved over fresh porcini mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.
What is your favorite food-/cooking-related joke?
This kitchen's so small you couldn't swing a cat in it.
What was your best dining experience?
The best experience would have to be all day dining at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival... fried oyster po-boys, crawfish bread, softshell crabs and spicy boudin balls.
What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?
Anything by Pink Floyd.
What is your dream culinary trip?
Truffle hunting with a brown Lab in the Perigord region of France.
If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?
A forest ranger in a remote forest where I'd have to be airlifted to work.
What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen and why?
My wife is a fabulous cook so almost anything she makes qualifies. I would also go for anything involving truffles, foie gras, and wild game. Delia's family lives in the Pacific Northwest so we go hunting and fishing there every year.
What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?
I love good fried chicken, I also love my wife's lamb burgers, and I am addicted to Jelly Babies candy...usually purchased at Heathrow airport on my way back to Miami.
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SHOW ME HOW
Aside from any restaurants you own, work at, or have financial interest in, which Miami eatery is your favorite and what do you like to order there?
Lamb shanks with porcini mushrooms or baby suckling pig at Sardinia on Miami Beach.
Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that...?
Never trust a chef who does not possess a sharp knife or one who doesn't taste his food.