Table Talk with Chef Bruce Aidells

The Sausage King shares how he learned to cook.

Bruce Aidells arrives at his culinary expertise by way of a Ph.D. in biology, which he earned at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Ultimately, biological research couldn't compete with good food, and Aidells exchanged his lab coat for a chef's toque at Poulet, a popular Berkeley, California, restaurant and charcuterie. He has authored several cookbooks, including The Complete Meat Cookbook, Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book, and Bruce Aidells' Complete Book of Pork.

Who shaped the way you think about food?
In a way, my parents did in that I had a negative reaction to my mother's cooking. But because I grew up in ethnically diverse Los Angeles and because my family always ate out on Sundays, I got a chance to taste many different cuisines. I also credit Julia Child's TV show for teaching me lots of exciting new techniques and dishes.

Whom would you like to have cook for you?
Madhur Jaffrey, Nancy Oakes (my wife and chef/owner of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco), Christopher Lee (former head chef of Chez Panisse), and Michael Wild (owner of Bay Wolf in Oakland, California).

Who was the most influential person in your life?
My grandmother, a great natural cook who loved to feed people.

What do you wish you had in your kitchen?
Someone to clean up and do all of my prep. And an indoor fire pit and spit roaster.

What's your most indispensable tool, cookbook, or piece of equipment?
My industrial-powered meat grinder and my old but well-seasoned cast-iron pans.

What is your favorite dish?
Indian curries, especially eggplant, cauliflower, or lamb.

What's your favorite indulgence?
Crispy pork skin from Chinese roast pig, Chinese roast duck, Italian sausage pizza, and warm berry pie with homemade ice cream.

What's your favorite restaurant?
In San Francisco-Boulevard, Chez Panisse, and my neighborhood Pakistani curry-and-kabob house, called Kabana.

What food or food trend do you think is overrated?
Fusion, which is usually confusion; foams and gels.