We sat down with our Managing Chef Neil Manacle who spoke with us about his experiences in the kitchen, food & dining today, as well as some tips for the newly engaged!
What was the main reason you decided to be a chef?
Because I like to eat! Since I was young food and meal time has always been a central part of my life, so it was obviously an important factor when I decided to enter this industry.
What inspires you the most?
I take inspiration from all places; Food and ingredients themselves, as well as everything surrounding me. You can go outside now [that it is Spring] and see everything is becoming colorful and turning green; that effects how I plan to plate food and the types of recipes I am trying, seasonal factors are obviously huge when it comes to creating new dishes.
What is your favorite thing about working in the catering industry and for Russell Morin Catering & Events? What about the most challenging?
I have always been cooking, and have been in the restaurant industry for over fifteen years which makes me fairly "new" to the world of catering. Catering affords me the chance to go home every night and spend time with my family, while still getting the opportunity to create new and exciting dishes. Plus the staff here [at Russell Morin] is amazing. I am surrounded by a great group of hardworking people. They make it refreshing to come into work every day. Especially Russ, I remember leaving my first interview with him thinking that I just had to work with him, he just instills that type of passion in you.
So the challenge has been shifting the mindset from cooking individual dishes for maybe one hundred people in a night, to creating unique menus for dozens of events at different venues taking place in the same amount of time.
You mentioned the restaurant industry; we heard you used to work with Bobby Flay, tell us a little more about that!
Working with Bobby has been a huge part of my career. I have had the opportunity to be the Chef de Cuisine of Bolo, Mesa Grill, and Bar Americain, as well as the chance to appear on Iron Chef. [Bobby] created so much opportunity for me in the fifteen plus years I resided in New York and really helped advance my creativity and diversity in the kitchen.
This industry, whether it is restaurant or catering, is always changing, how do you keep up with all the cooking trends?
Read, read, read. I am a huge magazine junkie, there is so much information in books and online.I have also gotten the opportunity to work with so many amazing chefs that I've been able to discuss a variety of techniques and trends with.
What is your favorite type of cuisine to cook?
Spanish, Mediterranean, North African, really anything from that corner of the world. I love that whole area, the spices that they use, how they prepare dishes, really everything about that style.
If you had one weekend to travel anywhere, which city would you dine in?
I have spent a lot of time in Spain, so I think Morocco and cities like Marrakesh.
Is there any ingredient you think is under-appreciated in dishes?
Not here, we really create so many diverse options and use everything. If I had to say something in general, I would say vegetables. I love vegetarian dishes and think they are something in cooking as a whole that can really be expanded on. When I am cooking at home I try to be really experimental with theses types of meals.
For the newly engaged, what kind of questions should they be asking their caterer?
They should go in with all their needs, and a good caterer will ask all the questions. Our mission [at Russell Morin] is to take what the client is looking for and then create & deliver exactly what they are imagining.
Any advice you can give them then?
Trust us. Seriously, when I meet with people during their tastings I assure them I treat each and every wedding with the care as if it was my own.