Food News

Shinsei's Jason Czaja: Should We Worry About a Chef Whose Fave Movie is Soylent Green?

On Wednesday, we gave you the goods on Jason Czaja, executive chef at Shinsei. Today, we asked Czaja to finish a few sentences for us. Tomorrow, he shares one of his recipes.

I was raised in...Born on the Indiana side of Chicago. Mom, Dad, little brother and I moved to Charles City, Iowa, quite a while ago. That's where I call home.   My friends say...I was a rock star? Shootin' Doubles? I really don't care much for country music...if you meant my friends say I'm... then I'd say a sociopath. Get it? Not funny?...In all honesty, they most often remind me that I'm batshit crazy. Completely not right in the head.   My momma told me...never ride a motorcycle. She was in an accident riding one...I really, REALLY want to get a bike, but...Momma said and all. Seriously, never been on one.    If I had 24 hours to live I'd...Do the same thing I do everyday...try and take over the world!   My guilty pleasure is...corn dogs. I believe y'all refer to them as "corny dogs" here in Texas, and also mistakenly believe that they originated here. Wrong and wrong. I do love them, though...another secret...I eat them with yellow mustard and ketchup. Scandalous, no?   If I could go anywhere, I'd go...There's no place I'd rather be than where I'm at. Anytime. Except for that one time I sliced off the tip of my finger. Then, I would have rather been somewhere else. I do miss my family/hometown. It's been years since I've been back to visit, and it does make me sad. Working on that in the next few months...

Never again will I...forget to call my mom back. Not too long ago, my mom called me as I was boarding a flight that was already a mess, boarding just a nightmare...didn't have time to talk, told her I'd call her back, and didn't get around to it for a bit. A bit being more like days. NOT GOOD. Even my dad was pissed at me. Had to call in my little brother to help smooth it out.   Cat or dog...Dog. Hands down. I have a 4 1/2-year old lab named Jacq. I got her from Wayside Waifs, which is a no-kill shelter in Kansas City. At the time, I was going through a really difficult time both physically and personally. She really helped put me back in the right place mentally to deal with what was in my court. It's funny when people talk about me "saving her," giving her a good, loving home when she, in fact, saved me. And that's no bullshit.


The CD I couldn't do without ...That's like asking me who the best drummer of all time is...apples to oranges, day to day, there are merely GREAT ones. Each to be enjoyed in their own right. Yesterday (at work) was LCD Soundsystem, Sneaker Pimps and Dengue Fever. Today (day off) it's been the Meters, with some Steely Dan. Tomorrow might be Easy E. Ya never know. In the kitchen, though, the one that keeps coming back, year after year, is The Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. Cook to that on repeat, and life's good.

I relax by...reading. The time I take to read most every night is about the only time that I "relax". I'm a pretty high-strung personality. It's a rare occasion that I slow down.

If it weren't for cooking, I would be...a musician.

I get my cooking inspiration from...Foods that start with letter Q?

The kitchen gift I'd like to receive...A wok burner. That would be pretty epic.

Every home kitchen needs...A table to eat at. So much of the joy of food is the communal aspect of mealtime. It's something that I see so many families tossing to the wayside.

My favorite movie is...Soylent Green. Or, maybe it would be Meet the Feebles. I remember watching that in college and thinking "this Peter Jackson guy's a genius." Turns out he doesn't suck. Weird.

Kitchen tool I could not live without...a spoon. For real...every one says knife when answering this question. I'm gonna assume that my kitchen already has one. Unless we've reverted to the stone age, and are using rocks to fab out our saber tooth tiger steaks. Then I'd want a knife. Back to the original question...I learned a long time ago that tongs (unless working with pasta) are the tool of the devil. You have no touch with them, and you're more likely than not going to damage the protein you're turning with them. Or the salad greens your tossing with them. Spoon. Spoon is a multitasker. It can function as a spatula, helping you to gently turn your protein. It can safely help you mix your salad greens. You can sauce your plate with it. You can use it as an instrument of torture when your line cooks are unruly. Now that I'm in an Asian kitchen, though, I've come to embrace the chopsticks. Those greens you're tossing about with wakame for a seaweed salad....pulverized by the tongs......still intact and pristine when mixed with the chopsticks. I rarely work a pantry station anymore. I don't always choose to toss a salad...but when I do, I prefer to do so with chopsticks.

One thing that surprises me about the Dallas dining scene is...It's stoicism. The D is a city that, to a newbie, appears to be very comfortable in what it is and what it does. Regardless of trends.

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Jenny Block