Chef Patrick Weber on rock 'n' roll and why chefs throw things

Each week, we'll interview two of the chefs participating in our 2013 Iron Fork competition. On November 7th, these six culinary masterminds will go head to head to see who can create the most appetizing and healthful dish using a secret ingredient provided by Lunds. For more information on the event, or to purchase your tickets, click here.

Chef Patrick Weber
Chef Patrick Weber

Patrick Weber Chef Instructor Arts Institute International Minnesota

His resume is impressive: He studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York; earned his bachelors in Hotel and Restaurant Management in Miami; and has worked with such nationally recognized chefs as David Bouley in New York, Jay Sparks in Minneapolis, Guenter Seeger in Atlanta, and Mark Militello in Miami.

See also: Iron Fork 2013 presale begins today City Pages Iron Fork 2012: People and Food Food Porn: Iron Fork 2012

What few know about celebrated chef Patrick Weber is that his roots are on a dairy farm in Iowa.

"Our mailbox was a mile away from our house -- we were rural."

After high-school, Weber attended Iowa State University where he studied "finances... kinda" for about a year. Like many other students, he had gotten a part-time job at a local restaurant

"I fell in love. I just loved the energy, and the stainless steel and the culture."

Nine weeks later, at the age of 19, he left the dairy farm for culinary school in New York City.

"I had no idea what fine dining was. I mean, I didn't know what foie gras was -- I hadn't even eaten asparagus."

What followed was a career as Executive Chef in kitchens from Miami to Missouri; South Carolina to Minneapolis. Now, as a consultant and educator, Weber finds that coming from such humble beginnings has made him a better teacher. He has an empathy with the young cooks that some others don't.

"You know, you're standing in front of someone and you're teaching them how to make a baguette... and you're thinking, 'Really? You don't know this?'" he says. "That's why a lot of chefs are notorious for throwing pans..."

Patrick Weber will be one of six contestants in the City Pages' Iron Chef Competition on November 7th. He's confident he'll do well because he considers himself a "quick-fire cook" who works well under pressure. In fact, Weber says he finds the high-stress situations of food competitions pretty true-to-life. A real restaurant kitchen -- much like the competition -- is frequently under the gun and having to improvise. Even at home, Weber finds good training for the Iron Fork.

"I look at it like, 'Alright, I just got home, this is what's in my refrigerator. What can I do to make something for my wife and me in 20 minutes?'" he says. "I'm pretty good at that under pressure sort of thing."

Weber knows many of the other chefs who will be going face-to-face with him -- several are good friends. All the same, he can't guarantee there won't be any temper-tantrums or hurled plates.

"Chefs by nature are competitive. Yeah, we're all gonna want to win."  

Chef Patrick Weber on rock 'n' roll and why chefs throw things

The Hot Dish: What is the most indispensable kitchen utensil? Patrick Weber: The chef's knife. It can pretty much do everything, and I can open a beer with it after I'm done.

If you had not pursued the culinary arts, what do you think you would have done? Oh, absolutely I would be a farmer. Growing something or herding cattle or doing something in nature; it's where my heart is... that, or be a rock star.

Do you have a current obsession outside of the kitchen? Yeah, I'm taking electric guitar lessons. Rock star, right? Actually, I'm horrible, sometimes they turn the amp off. But I'm learning.

How does growing up on a farm change the way you cook and eat? I'm a huge advocate of local, organic, grass fed -- I mean that's not just a trend, it's a way of life... I've had a CSA from Hog's Back Farm for six or seven years. When we get it we just eat stuff raw out of the bag for about an hour. I have 25 pounds of carrots right now -- the best carrots you've ever had. Our dog eats grass-fed raw beef.

What three things are always in your refrigerator? Fresh lemon aioli -- I really like to eat it on my sandwiches. I also always have carrots, of course, and some kind of local craft beer.

If you could have dinner with anyone - alive or dead, real or fictional - who would it be; and what would you eat? I don't know if he's a foodie, but Stevie Ray Vaughn. He's the best guitar player in the world. And he's a Southern guy, so I'd probably make him shrimp and grits.

How do you define 'foodie'? I think it's somebody who can always appreciate a well-prepared meal, and take the time to be nourished by a cook or by anybody who prepares something with love. To me it's about the time, you know? You're not driving with a sandwich in your hand, you're taking the time to appreciate your food and respect where it comes from.

If you had a theme song, what would be? Anything by the Ramones -- it's great cooking music.

What does your family think of your job as a chef? They love it! My mom sits back for Thanksgiving and Christmas and lets me cook dinner.

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