Chef Burning Questions: Tim Byres on Cookbooks and Crazy Requests

Each week (or thereabout) we track down a chef for a few burning questions. This week, Tim Byres of Smoke and Chicken Scratch was willing to participate. He indulged us in a few of his favorite cookbooks and weird surprises in the walk-in.

What are a few of your favorite cookbooks (feel free to include your own, if you'd like)? Afield by Jesse Griffiths, Oaxaca Al Gusto by Diane Kennedy, The River Cottage Cookbook series. Oh, and my book! (Smoke) Any suggestions for the parent who is trying to keep a growing crowd happy and fed? The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci. We had so much fun making the timpano and watching the movie Big Night. Also,What to Cook and How to Cook it: Fresh and Easy by Jane Hornby

What's the worse thing you ever encountered in the back of your walk-in freezer? Like, "Oh, we forgot about that!" My mother-in-law's frozen cup of water with notes in it! She calls it "putting people on ice." A Caribbean good luck charm?

What's craziest request you've ever received from a diner? A fine dining multiple course dinner menu for a 6-year-old on his birthday. The other thing would be caviar for a puppy at the Mansion.

Have you ever worked on something for a long time and it always turned out awful, and you just had to give up? No, there's nothing I never really give up on. You just have to table it and go back to it. Like the Indian mixtamal. It's a base for hominy and tortilla masa made with dry corn ash and water. That took me forever, and now it's so easy.

What are a few of your greatest food shames (like tacos at Jack in the Box or anything from 7-Eleven)? Byres' wife, Mo, intervenes: Oh I'm answering this one. When we first were dating and would leave work together, he would go home and eat two small Totinos microwave pizzas from 7-Eleven.

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