Corner Table's Scott Pampuch: Chef Chat, Part 3

Today is our final installment in our conversation with chef and restaurant owner Scott Pampuch in the kitchen of his restaurant Corner Table. (Read parts 1 and 2 here.) He's been buzzing through his kitchen the entire time, and finally the sausage is ready to taste. He fries off a small hunk and splits it up, offering a sample. It's salty, zingy with fennel seed and redolent with pork flavor. He contemplates the flavor before deciding to turn the entire business into a giant terrine. That's the fun of being your own boss--he's clearly making it up as he goes along.

How did you get involved with the book Primal Cuts by Marissa Guggiana?

That came through Andrew Zimmern. Marissa called him, and he gave her a couple of names, one of which was Mike Phillips. He told her to call me, and she did.

The contacts that I've gotten through that have been incredible. When I was doing a dinner out in New York I wanted to use grass-fed beef. I just opened up the book and called Dan Barber at Blue Hill. They actually don't have any, so then I called Tom Mylan, and he got me plenty of beef and lamb. There's a network. Local food is easier than people think, and you get what you put into it.

What ingredient signals spring to you?
It's got to be ramps. There's nothing else like them, and you can't get them any other time of year. Mushrooms are fun.. Not having something for a while and then you finally have it, it's just, "Ahhhhhh..."

Have you ever gone foraging?
No, and of course foraged mushrooms are illegal. There's one guy that is certified to sell them, and that's it. That's all--for the whole state!

You know what it's like, we have a huge resource in Lake Superior, but it's illegal to commercially fish. Walleye! The Minnesota state fish that almost everyone has on their menu--it's all fished in Canada. 

Do you hunt?
I did growing up. Deer hunting. Duck hunting. But I'm not that good with a gun.

How did the TV show come to you? (In Search of Food, airing locally on the Ovation channel in May).
Again, I just got a call.  On the other end of the line with this crazy British accent, and I did not believe it.  The show is a pilot with the guy who wrote, For Cod and Country. Turns out, it's the real thing.  They said that they started to Google "farm to table" and my name kept coming up.  We talked and talked and talked, and then there was nothing, no contract or anything. I thought, it's a total scam!  All of a sudden they call and say, "We'll be there next week."

We threw together a dinner, and they came and filmed.  I only got to see part of it, but holy shit--it's pretty cool. 

So, since you're not doing anything else, are you going to get a food truck going?
Probably, someday.  We used the 128 Cafe truck out at the New Year's Eve Tour de Farm event, which was great.

What is your most valuable cooking tool?
Hands.  They're the best tool--you don't need anything else.  Julia Child said it.

Who do you admire most in the food business?
The farmers.  I'm influenced by all of these people, James Beard, Julia Child, Alain Ducasse, Alice Waters, Tom Colicchio, chefs who are working their asses off.  But the truth is, none of us would be here without a seed in the ground.

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