Lou Cruz knows restaurants. He started as a busboy at 13, and attended Johnson & Wales. He is now the Executive Chef at 10 Prime Steak & Sushi.
How did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I was raised by a single mom and our babysitter was an old Italian lady. One day I was sick and unable to play outside, and she was cooking for everyone. It intrigued me. I wanted to know what she was doing and how she was doing it. I started helping her and haven’t stopped cooking ever since.
Tell me about your cooking style.
It looks simple, but that doesn’t mean that the components are simple. A sauce could take multiple days to make. I don’t want to overcomplicate a dish; I strive for balance.
What keeps you going in this industry?
I literally want to learn everything about the restaurant business. I love being a chef and putting a smile on everyone’s faces. Food hits people personally and makes them happy.
How do you decide what cuts of meat to use?
It depends on what I feel like using at the time. I could be cooking at home, using a different cut of meat and think, “that would be great for the restaurant.
What is your favorite cut of meat to use?
Rib-eye is my steak. I love it. It has that marbling of fat throughout the entire cut that other cuts, such as sirloin and filet, don’t have. All that marbling is from the feed the cows eat. Did you know that Kobe beef cows are actually massaged? Happy cows are the best cows.
Tell me about a dish that has been locally-inspired.
I marinated lamb with garlic-infused oil and fresh herbs, grilled and then roasted it in the oven. I served that over polenta, ramps (wild leeks), fiddleheads, shallots, cherry tomatoes, oyster and shitake mushrooms and a little pureed jalapeño for heat.
What’s an easy recipe for the do-it- yourself home cook?
Garlic-infused oil. It’s very simple. Take about 25 cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan, cover with canola oil – stay away from olive oil because of its strong flavor – and put it on a grill or stovetop until it simmers (about 10-15 minutes). Turn off the heat, and let it cool. Just don’t let the garlic brown or burn. You can store any extra in the fridge.
Where do you find culinary inspiration?
From the customers, suggestions from the servers, what is seasonally and readily available at the farmer’s markets and local produce companies. I want our menu to reflect the seasons, so we take new ingredients, bring them in, cook them in new and fun ways until the dish is ready to go on the menu.
Is there someone who inspired you to go after your dream of being a chef?
My mother is my main inspiration. She said, “If you love it, go for it.” Coming from a family with a single parent, she’s the one that pushed me the most to go for what I wanted. Cooking should be fun. It should be something that you share with your kids or significant other. You have to enjoy life, and I can’t see myself doing anything else.
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