What Can't This Wilmington Chef Live Without?
First up in our new "Chefs Tell" series: James Kazongo of University & Whist Club.
James Kazongo, executive chef at University & Whist Club
Trend I love: Some trends are more sustaining than others. Having trained in France and French being my language—and having been executive chef for Italian restaurants—I have developed my own trend of French-Italian cuisine. And, yes, while it was an actual trend in the late 1990s, these are two countries that are known for their food and exalted level of culinary excellence, so it’s a natural for me that the two should be together in my kitchen.
Food trend that should go away: Expensive hamburgers. Can’t help it, but hamburger is hamburger. Charging $25-plus for one drives me crazy.
Ingredient I love: Fresh basil. The aroma and flavor brings a dish to a new level for me.
Tool I can’t live without: Tongs! They are like an additional set of fingers. James Scissorhands!
Favorite cookbook: Gotham. I did a few weeks as visiting chef there in New York, and the way the kitchen ran was like a symphony. The experience really stuck with me.
My final meal: Steak frites—steak au poivre with Belgian-style frites to be exact. The spice of the pepper with the steak and the salt of the frites dipped in homemade mayonnaise—it’s elegant comfort food. We just added Belgian-style frites to the appetizer menu here at University & Whist Club. Jacques [Macq], our managing director, is Belgian, and I studied in France and Europe, so the Belgian-style frites are the best. They are hand-cut and twice-cooked.
My favorite restaurant: As a chef, basing this on atmosphere, not necessarily food, might seem odd, but I love the Chart House in Philly. Sitting along the water watching the boats—it’s relaxing. Feels like a mini-vacation.