I recently had the chance to chat with Chef Shawn Cline about food, flavors and his favorite restaurants … which had me reminiscing about the best cooks of my own childhood. My grandmother, Mama Sue, came to mind (sorry mom). Her ability to whip up a couple of peach pies for Dad, creamed potatoes and peas for Mom, and a large batch of special vegetable soup for the kids while still finding time to feed the cows, will always remain a mystery. If “Super Grandma” was a term in the dictionary, her face would be beside it; or maybe just her name — she never did like to have her picture taken. I may not be the culinary aficionado she was, but I definitely appreciate good food and everything it takes to get it to the table: work, presentation, taste. Turns out I’m not alone …
Some of the best chefs credit their grandmothers for fueling their culinary creativity and passion.
One example is Shawn Cline, executive corporate chef for Hospitality Restaurants. In his case, his appreciation led to an association with fine establishments like Blue Point Grille, Delmonico’s and Rosewood Grill, to name a few.
Cline gave his grandma the title Kitchen Master because she raised seven children on ‘big pot cookery’, family recipes and home-grown products. These memorable meals displayed the power of food and its ability to bring people together through celebration and tradition.
Despite Cline’s infatuation with food, he didn’t always see himself becoming a chef. His creativity and interest in art fueled enthusiasm for drafting and architecture, although he never pursued a career in that direction. It was at his first job — in a restaurant — that enabled him to express himself through food and hospitality.
Cline recently shared his thoughts about food, family and his favorite meal during our short Q&A conversation.
Q: Aside from your own, what is your favorite restaurant?
A: Red, The Steakhouse (Beachwood, Ohio)
Q: What is the hottest trend right now?
A: Sustainability, farm-to-table
Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?
A: High-quality product, minimal manipulation, classic technique
Q: If you could have any meal, what would it be?
A: I would relive my five-hour dinner experience at French Laundry.
Q: Are there chefs you try to emulate?
A: The level of excellence and personal accountability displayed by chefs like Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert are awe-inspiring and push me daily.
Q: When you aren’t in the kitchen, what do you do with your free time?
A: Family. My beautiful wife and my two amazing children have first dibs if I’m not in action.
Q: The world’s foremost authority on food is?
A: The James Beard Foundation
Q: The one book that every chef should have in their library is?
A: Culinary Artistry and The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Q: Food Network is _________?
A: Largely responsible for the current level of notoriety, respect and public intrigue associated with chefs. While this movement took place in years past, it was certainly the catalyst.
Q: If you could have only four ingredients in your pantry, they would be?
A: Olive oil, Kosher salt, Tellicherry peppercorns and all-purpose flour
Q: What is the most expensive meal you’ve ever prepared?
A: $1,000 per head multicourse benefit dinner.
Q: What is your favorite food/dish?
A: Wood-fired, bone-in Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime ribeye, wild chanterelles, porcini mushrooms and bone marrow butter, topped with shaved white Italian truffles. Pair that with a big, full-bodied red wine and I am set.
Interested in other chef chats? Read on …
Editor’s note: This post was written by Matt Shoup, Certified Angus Beef ® brand intern.