Behind the Line: An Interview with Wild Olives' Chef Jamie Pruitt

Jamie Pruitt has come a long way from cracking crabs legs in Maryland, though we're pretty sure he still gives the occasional crustacean a whack as chef at Wild Olives by Todd English in Boca. He has been in Florida for nearly a decade now, working at Gigi's, Prezzo, City Oyster and other restos before he joined on at Opus 5, which--as you know--became Wild Olives late last year.

Though he is self-taught, Pruitt has certainly earned his stripes in the industry. He began in the restaurant biz as a busboy at 11 years of age, working up through the ranks and learning to cook from his mama. Awww.

Since Valentine's Day is just around the corner, we thought we'd share an interview with this really sweet guy. (He claims to cook for his wife at home in Boca, so we'll give him some New Times love). Lucky gal. Maybe she'll provide the mint chocolate chip ice cream to make the guy's holiday super special.  

New Times: If you could serve a meal to any person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?

Jamie Pruitt: My father. I'd just like to cook him one last meal. I would probably cook him pot roast because that was one of his favorite meals. I'd like to have one last dinner with him.

NT: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be? 

JP: I'd like to come back as a duck. I think a lot of great things come from ducks, foie gras being one of them, pates...

NT: And how would you like to be served? 

JP: Crispy.

NT: What was your most embarrassing cooking-related moment?

JP: I did an SOS event probably eight years ago and I forgot to bring my chef knives. I left them at the restaurant. I showed up to do a carving. 

NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?

JP: Pastries. I'm really high-strung and you can't turn a lot of chefs into pastry chefs. Pastry is one of those departments that still tends to get me all the time. It's not that it's too technical for me, but it's tedious. You know, I'd rather be spur-of-the-moment.

NT: Which chef, alive or dead, would you like to challenge in Iron Chef fashion? Why do you believe you could kick his or her ass in the kitchen?

JP: I'd kinda like to go against Todd [English]. He's the chef that I'm working for and I think it would be a fun challenge to go against the chef who's name is on the restaurant. You know, battle it out. 

NT: Think you can beat him?

JP: I think I stand a fighting chance, yeah.

NT: If your significant other gave you a pass, what celebrity chef would you most like to enjoy a naked cooking session with and why?

JP: I don't think any of 'em are that attractive.

NT: What's your favorite music to cook to?

JP: Simon & Garfunkel

NT: Favorite cookbook or, at the very least, the one book that every budding chef should own?

JP: The Food Lovers' Companion. I think it's a good teaching tool. 

NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?

JP: I'd probably be a fisherman.

NT: What's your favorite item on the Wild Olives menu and why?

JP: It's actually our osso bucco. I'm a big braised meat person. It's a nice hearty dish. [And] the ham hock risotto that it's served over is very good. 

NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?

JP: Mint chocolate chip ice cream. Doesn't have to be any brand. That's the way to my heart.

NT: What's the biggest mistake many chefs make?

JP: Under-seasoning food. Properly seasoned food is the key to success.

NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that...?

JP: Tells you it's easy.

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Riki Altman