This week, Three-Course Meal catches up with Patton Robertson, chef at Five-Sixty by Wolfgang Puck .
Who are you? I'm a Texas boy. Just turned 40. Cooking is something that I've done since childhood, and I have been cooking Texas-based food and California cuisine for 14 years. After focusing on regional cuisine for so long, becoming a part of Five-Sixty was a change that I really was on the hunt for. I have always loved Asian cuisine, and I was really up for both a challenge and a cultural experience. Five-Sixty offered me both of those opportunities. How did you get this gig? I was fortunate enough to begin working for Wolfgang Puck in '96 at Spago in Las Vegas, and have been working with the organization ever since. I did, however, take a four-year hiatus to open my own restaurant before becoming a part of Five-Sixty. You could say we have a history.
What's the deal with food? We can't live without it! And I will never be without a job. Oddly enough, chefs have kind of a rock star status these days, and everyone wants to know what you're up to in the kitchen. Food is fascinating, sensual, exciting and has the power to ignite all of our senses and make memories. Who wouldn't be into food with all of its powers?
Who eats at your place? (Come one, give us the goods.) Super Bowl weekend yielded an eccentric array of celebrity patrons. The top 30 CEOs in the country were here as well as famous athletes and plenty of cheerleaders. We get a lot of local celebrities from the Dallas area -- newscasters, actors, models and, when there are big events that come to town, we usually get the high-profile customers making reservations under aliases. Anyone from tourists to locals eat here. The food is great, the view is awesome and you will never forget dining in a revolving restaurant 560 feet in the air.
Who works at your place? Let's see...one of our sushi chefs fell in love with the hostess, and I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up married. Another sushi chef is an amazing artist who sells his work online and is a genuine talent. We have some really fascinating characters that come from our international work program from the Congo, Iran, Tibet and Costa Rica. We get models, actors, aspiring chefs, students, mothers and fathers, and all the typical characters that seem to show up in any restaurant family. Of course there is always drama. That's life. You could easily film a reality show with our cast of employees and be easily entertained. One reason I love the restaurant business is because there is never a dull moment and you could never have this many different characters in one place outside of a carnival.
What is up with the national food scene and how does your restaurant fit into it? In the past 10 years, sushi has become one of the most popular and trendy foods in America. Wolfgang Puck is a major part of the national food scene and helps determine trends and set standards for what we can expect to achieve in the kitchen. Reunion Tower is a Dallas landmark. Every picture depicting the Dallas skyline features the big glowing ball hovering over the buildings below. Everyone wants to experience the view and the food.
If you could stab one Food Network person who would it be? How about a few of the critics on Iron Chef who seem to know absolutely nothing about food? If someone is used to eating fast food every day and thinks Kraft mac-n-cheese is gourmet, then they will not appreciate what I can prepare.
If you could be best friends with one Food Network person who would it be? My fiancée will kill me with this answer, but Marcela Valladolid. She's a Food Network chef who really adds the spice to Mexican food. I love Mexican food, but Marcela could sure teach me a thing or two in the kitchen. She makes food sexy and wears an apron very well.
Why are so many people in the United States so overweight? I don't believe it is about diet as much as a lack of activity. If people gave the gym the amount of time they give to Facebook, it would easily take 30 pounds off their waistline. I would hate for anyone to give up eating out, not just because I would be out of work, but because I think fine dining ads to our characters and broadens our experiences.
We don't "supersize" our menu because the larger the portion can lead to a miserable experience. There is nothing fun about the feeling I have after eating a Big Mac and fries with an extra-large Coke. Taking a nice brisk walk after a meal can help you digest and you'll feel better afterward.
It drives me crazy watching my kids play on the Wii, doing Facebook, chatting on Skype, and playing Nintendo DS for hours at a time. When I was young, we were never indoors. We ran, climbed trees, played sports, and never considered it exercise.
Of course, it costs nothing and takes about five minutes to drive through McDonalds rather than produce a well-balanced, healthy meal and that, my friend, is the major problem. Fast food restaurants have made it easy to eat poorly. However, I do crave a Big Mac from time to time. (I eat one every couple of weeks.) But I don't live on them.