Chef John Paul Kline of John Paul Custom Cuisine: Q&A, Part Two
So what did you do after culinary school?
Providence when I was 25 or so. I worked at the Back Eddy in Providence
with Chris Schlessinger, a James Beard winner. It was a beautiful area
with wineries and farmland. You were literally waiting for the lettuce
from the farm, not the fridge. I was there three years, the whole time I
was in school. When I graduated, I wanted to get other experiences; I
was burnt out on cooking. So I moved to Portugal and went to school for
massage therapy -- but that's when I started cooking again. I was there
for two and half months, in this beautiful area of Portugal where
everyone in Europe goes to summer. I'd carry a water jug to the market
and fill it with olive oil. I'd cook for the whole class -- 18 of us.
Every night, we'd be at my apartment. There I was in Portugal, aiming
to learn a new skill and take a break
from cooking -- but I was actually falling deeper in love with food.
Portugal, I headed over to Morocco, as I was fascinated by the
flavors and the culture. It was all mind-blowing. A lot of what I cook
today is inspired by those ingredients and the balance of flavors,
particularly in Moroccan cooking. I traveled around Spain and Morocco
and then came back to the States. My girlfriend at the time wanted to
live on the beach, so I ended up rolling sushi in Nantucket. I went to
Martha's Vineyard... and worked for Jackson Kenworth at the Sweet Life
Cafe (which has since been sold). Then I decided I didn't want to work
for anyone else. But I still did [laughs].
So how did you come to work for yourself?
interviewed at [a fancy restaurant] -- they had 500 applicants for six
positions. When they showed me the pay and the long contract they wanted
me to sign, I thought, "Not in a million years." I realized you could
write your own ticket. I pretty much write my own now.
before that, I worked at a sweet little place in Nantucket. I helped
open a sitdown restaurant in a movie theater. But I got tired of the
short season up north. My parents had moved down here. I came on
vacation in 2004 and took a sous chef position at L'Opera in West Palm
Beach, worked on Clematis Street, did some catering. When I did my first
wedding -- for a friend in New England with 250 people -- I had never
done a party. There was no refrigeration; I sent someone to go get ten
baby pools and kept everything on ice, hired some bartenders and servers
-- and realized, "This is what I want to do."
first year in business was great -- I had lots of private, corporate,
and political clients, and at one point, I had 30 people working with me
and two events a day. Then -- bang! -- the market crashes and parties
literally got canceled overnight. Even the people that still had money
canceled as they didn't want to be flashing their wealth.
everyone, I had to cut right back, and I actually got offered a private
chef position for six months on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire.
Depends on what the client wants and the time it takes.
Do you have a specialty?
Whatever's fresh. My menu gets dictated by the season. Whatever the client wants. If I don't know, I learn.
What are five words to describe your cooking?
Comfortable, creative, fresh, historic, and genuinely enjoyable!
What do you eat when you're not working?
One of the
staples of my diet is pizza. It's comfort food. That comes from growing
up in New Jersey, in Seaside, on the boardwalk every day.
Wood-fired or coal-fired?
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