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Chef Interview Questions

Neil Clooney - Iron Chef

Anna Eats Ashland: Where did you grow up?

Chef Neil Clooney: Just outside London, UK.

Anna Eats Ashland: Did you eat your veggies?

Chef Neil Clooney: Only after I ate my meat.

Anna Eats Ashland: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

Chef Neil Clooney: When I was 15. I was fascinated by hotels from a young age and did a work experience at a hotel and the only department I liked was the kitchen. The rest is history.

Anna Eats Ashland: What is your favorite food memory?

Chef Neil Clooney: Not really sure if I had one because my mums cooking was pretty bad, hence the reason I explored cooking to see if there was more to it. I did like her braises, so anything that involves meat cooking for a long time would be one of them.

Anna Eats Ashland: Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?

Chef Neil Clooney: I did an apprenticeship program at a Forte Hotel. 4 days at work, one day at college. It was pretty intense, but something that I felt I needed at that point in my life.

Anna Eats Ashland: How do you get your inspiration?

Chef Neil Clooney: Reading cookbooks, keeping up with the latest trends and dining out.

Anna Eats Ashland: Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?

Chef Neil Clooney: I have many – the silpat, chinoise, and immersion blender. My current favorite is the pasta roller attachment to a kitchen aid.

Anna Eats Ashland: Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

Chef Neil Clooney: Cook what you like and give it a lot of time and love. It makes the difference.

Anna Eats Ashland: Best cooking tip for a novice just getting into the business?

Chef Neil Clooney: Show up on time and have a good attitude, the rest we can teach you. Oh and don’t expect to get paid well or work sociable hours.

Anna Eats Ashland: Funniest kitchen incident?

Chef Neil Clooney: Wow, too many to recollect or mention on this site. Although a server once asked me if there was any egg in eggplant. Too funny!

Anna Eats Ashland: Who in the food world do you most admire?

Chef Neil Clooney: I have respect for Gordon Ramsey, obviously Thomas Keller. All of the great chefs who have helped form this industry. But mainly to the young guns who represent and do what they do all in the name of good cooking.

Anna Eats Ashland: Favorite foods to cook with?

Chef Neil Clooney: I enjoy cooking with pretty much everything. Although braising brings out a special part in me. Fish is very versatile and lends itself to lots of flavors.

Anna Eats Ashland: What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Chef Neil Clooney: Typically, something I haven’t worked with before proves to be a challenge, only for a few hours though.

Anna Eats Ashland: Do you have a favorite wine?

Chef Neil Clooney: White wine has to be from the Sancerre region in France and Red from the Paso Robles region in California.

Anna Eats Ashland: What do you like to eat when you’re at home?

Chef Neil Clooney: Comfort food something quick and easy. Which in my case normally involves take away, Chinese, Thai or Indian.

Anna Eats Ashland: Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Chef Neil Clooney: Not that I’ve found. Oh, does Marmite count as a food?

Anna Eats Ashland: Favorite cookbooks?

Chef Neil Clooney: Currently, I’m liking Fearnly Whittinghams “About Meat”, Thomas Kellers’ and Fergus Henderson’s books. Anything written by Michael Rulhman.

Anna Eats Ashland: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten?

Chef Neil Clooney: Just progressing, developing myself as a cook. Building successful restaurants.

Anna Eats Ashland: What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?

Chef Neil Clooney: Staying on track with sustainability is the only way the food world can get better and move forward.

Anna Eats Ashland: What do you do for fun?

Chef Neil Clooney: Golf, snowboard, poker, shooting the sh*t with the boys at the bar, jogging occasionally.

Anna Eats Ashland: Where is your favorite place in the world?

Chef Neil Clooney: Ashland Oregon right now, that’s why I chose to live here.

Anna Eats Ashland: What do you most love about your job?

Chef Neil Clooney: The daily grind of dealing with local ranches, taking wonderful raw food and transforming it into dishes for my diners to experience.

Anna Eats Ashland: If you had just one wish, what would it be?

Chef Neil Clooney: Wow, that’s a loaded question.

Anna Eats Ashland: One last question, Chef: What’s your ‘Last Supper’ meal? Your ‘Death Row’ meal, as Anthony Bourdain puts it.

Chef Neil Clooney: It would have to be boudin noir (blood sausage), mashed potatoes, foie gras rossini gravy, lots of bread and butter. An explicit version of bangers and mash.

Smithfields Restaurant and Bar is located at 36 S. 2nd Street, Ashland, Oregon. Call (541) 488-9948.