Gregory Pugin, executive chef at Veritas Restaurant in New York City, has been nominated for a coveted James Beard Award. He’s one of five nominees up for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Chef Pugin’s menus at Veritas reflect the cuisine of his homeland in Southwest France, and both patrons and critics have come away thoroughly impressed. He has created three-, five- and nine-course menus based on seasonal funghi (spring morels, summer chanterelles, fall white truffles and winter black truffles). But he has also developed an Ã la carte bar menu for customers who want a more casual dining experience.
Winners of the James Beard Awards will be announced May 3 at Lincoln Center in New York.
Here are Chef Pugin’s answers to our 10 Questions.
1. How long have you been in the restaurant business?
Since the age of 16.
2. Where are you from?
Tarbes, in Southwest France.
3. Are you married/do you have any children?
Married, no children.
4. Where did you first learn to cook?
I started cooking at home as a young child because I loved being in the kitchen, eating well, and making people happy with my food. I went on to study for my CAP and BEP HÃ´tellerie et Restauration (French National Vocational Qualifications Diplomas for Hospitality and Restauration), and afterwards was taken on as an apprentice at the HÃ´tel du Palais in Biarritz, France.
5. How did you get the news that you’d been nominated for the James Beard award?
An excited call from my wife.
6. What are some of your favorite/signature dishes? What makes them special?
My favorites vary, as I change my menu to reflect the change in seasons. Presently, I have two favorites:
Bellota Ham: Because it brings together products from my region, with all the flavors that I remember from my childhood, but in a very refined fashion.
Lemon Marinated Langoustine: Because it showcases luxury products from the sea and a touch of exotic flavor that reminds me of Panama, with the vodka gelÃ©e as the perfect liaison between the sweet, delicate flesh of the langoustine and the fatty richness of the caviar.
7. What do you like most about your job?
Seeing people leave the table with a smile upon their lips.
8. What is the hardest part of your job?
Always reassessing what I do to be as close as possible to perfection.
9. Why do you think you were nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year?
I think it is a mark of validation for the work we do collectively in our kitchen. If I stand out, it is because I head a brigade that is extremely hardworking and as passionate as I am about cooking; we give our very best in the work we do, and it is particularly gratifying to be recognized by the most prestigious organization in our industry.
10. What will you do to celebrate if you win?
Open a few Champagne bottles and toast to victory with my nearest and dearest.
Tomorrow: 10 Questions for James Beard Award nominee Sue Zemanick.