After a shift, what is your favorite guilty pleasure to eat? “My favorite guilty pleasure after shift is a doctored up bowl of Nongshim black ramen. Soft boiled eggs, frozen corn, scallions, sesame, nori, left over pork—the works!”
Is there one dish you won’t cook? “I love offal, but kidneys just gross me out.”
All-time favorite spice. “I love Ceylon cinnamon. I don’t cook with it often, outside of the fall/winter months, but I love the aroma it puts off when it is toasted.”
What is your favorite music to listen to while you cook? “Anything calm and cool. Working in a professional kitchen is such a sensory overload—fast, busy, loud, semi-controlled chaos. Whenever something cool like “Beast of Burden” by the Stones, or “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, or even Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version of “Little Wing” is on, it makes me relax a bit.”
Did you grow up cooking as a child? “I did. My mother was a single parent and she worked full time. When she was gone for work, I would cook pasta, sautéing ground beef and adding a jar of tomato sauce, so that was kind of like cooking?”
What cookbook is your go-to resource for inspiration? “Currently, the Estella cookbook is awesome. I ate there this summer and was blown away by the simplicity and near perfect execution of the food.”
After all these years working in restaurants, do you still enjoy going out to eat? “I do. I love to eat. I also love to see other restaurants and how they operate. It is still very enjoyable when I do get the opportunity to go out and eat.”
Is there one chef you’d like to cook with? “I would love to cook with Thomas Keller. He is one of my favorite chefs of all time. His delivery, execution, presence and precision is just iconic.”
Name the all-time best cooking show. “Iron Chef, circa 2006-2008 (ish?).”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “A pad of paper and a pen. To me, it is where a lot of great ideas, thoughts, and expression begin.”
Jimmy Papadopoulos is the chef of Chicago’s Bellemore and was Eater Chicago’s Chef of the Year in 2015.
Interview has been condensed and edited.