In this week's issue of Burning Questions, in which we quiz a chef about cookbooks, worst meals, food shames and whatever else comes to mind, we hear from Marc Cassel, the man behind 20 Feet Seafood Joint.
What are a few of your favorite cookbooks? The Internet has made the cookbook question sort of irrelevant, but I usually go to The Food Lover's Companion to make sure I have ingredients right, name right. I also like Ad Hoc at Home and Boulevard: The Cookbook.
Burned anything lately? What's the worst thing you've ever burned? I (knocking on wood) have not burned anything in a while. I would like to think the most valuable thing I have burned was myself, and quite often early on. Of course over the years I have fucked up my share of foie gras, expensive meats and fish. The worst is something that took a lot of prep time before going into the oven -- then carbonizing it.
What's the craziest request you've ever received from a diner? Once at The Green Room I visited a table of self-proclaimed "vegans" to ask what they could eat safely. They requested the Feed Me (a blind tasting menu), so I had to find out what I could work with. They said "being strict vegans they couldn't eat blah blah blah but they both really liked scallops and beef tenderloin." So there's that.
Have you ever worked on something for a long time that always turned out awful and you just had to give up? Sure. Usually, at least with me, the dishes I really think about and agonize over the details on turn out meh, but the ones that are off the cuff usually are great! Case in point -- those darn mussels, totally spontaneous. I was blowing out some product I had inherited from the previous chef. [Note: Cassel's Green Room mussels, available at 20 Feet, are a longtime Dallas favorite.]
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What's your greatest food shame? I am an unapologetic Taco Bell guy. I only eat stuff from their original menu -- none of the stuff they've come up with in the last 30 years.