If we could be given any talent in this world, it might be the ability to make America’s Best French fries. But alas, this title has already been given to our new hero, chef Riley Huddleston. Not only did his Boise Fry Company (a “burgers on the side” concept restaurant in the potato capital, which he still co-owns) win the award from *U.S.Travel News and Travel + Leisure* in 2013 and 2012, respectively, but the chef is now making palettes happier places at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago’s I|O Godfrey. Huddleston, who was a finalist in the 2015 S. Pellegrino Young Chef competition, is hard at work at his Chicago restaurant on what he calls the four “S”’s: Sensible food with Sustainable consistency, coupled with a bit of Scientific measure to lead to customer Satisfaction. If that’s the secret to the greatest French fry we’ve ever tasted, we’re on board.
1. What’s an underrated food city and why?
Seattle. They have some of the best produce and seafood in the country, as well as being among the most progressive as a whole restaurant community.
2. What food/food trend are you tired of?
Using dietary restrictions as a fad. Most people who think or say that they’re allergic to something (i.e., gluten) likely aren’t. I believe in moderation and, as a chef, it takes time away from preparing a thoughtfully crafted alternative dish to adhere to those with actual allergies and aversions.
3. How do you feel about Yelp?
Like most chefs, I have a love/hate relationship with Yelp. It’s great when you see feedback from diners that really enjoyed themselves at your restaurant and have the ability to make immediate revisions based on constructive feedback. Though, you need to be careful and sometimes read between the lines with some of the comments. Overall, I’m just intrigued how such a successful company was built on convincing us to believe what complete strangers are telling us.
4. If your kitchen is burning down, what’s the one gadget you save?
I would take the Volcano vaporizer. Not because I use it the most, but it has taken me six years to convince an employer to buy it for the kitchen.
5. What’s your guilty pleasure food?
Cereal. Though, I grew up and began buying “gourmet” cereal or sometimes I’ll make my own sprouted mix with grass fed cow’s milk. If you put Fruity Pebbles with half and half in front of me, it’s on!
6. If you could cook for one person—who would it be and what would you make them?
Thomas Keller. I don’t even know what I would make him because just the thought of that is crazy. I would just grab the freshest ingredients from the kitchen, cook my heart out and hope he likes it.
7. What are five ingredients that are always in your pantry?
• Rare vinegars—I always have some off-the-wall vinegar; the acid puts a smile on my face
• Verjus—just when a vinegar or citrus will give it too much acid
• Murray River Sea Salt—beautiful salt, perfect for finishing salads or meat
• Fresh Garlic—adds a great depth of flavor to almost any dish
• Fennel Pollen—fennel is one of my favorite ingredients for savory or sweet applications and fennel pollen adds a touch of spring
8. What’s the one mistake most amateur chefs make?
There are so many, but one of my favorites isn’t even kitchen related. It’s dating another member of the restaurant staff, which makes things pretty awkward for the rest us. It’s a hard lesson to learn and sometimes takes a few rounds for them to figure it out. Though, I get a laugh out of it every time.
9. What’s the best advice you ever received?
While I was attending culinary school in the British Virgin Islands, I completely messed up a large batch of bread and got pretty angry with myself. The chef came over and assured me he could fix it—I was amazed! When I asked how he could fix something that I thought was trash, he said, “a great chef knows how to fix mistakes because he has already made them. The more you mess up, the more you learn and become a better teacher.” Based on this comment, let’s just say that I could be considered a GREAT chef.