started his culinary career on the East Coast, where he spent three years as Sous Chef at Gianni’s in New York City, before moving on to Jodi’s Restaurant in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, and then to Grist Mill Steakhouse in Vermont. During nine months in San Francisco in 2001-2002, Mali completed a culinary externship at the renowned five-star, five-diamond Restaurant Gary Danko in San Francisco while simultaneously working as a line cook with Food and Wine Best New Chef of 2001, Craig Stoll, at Delfina. While in Colorado, Mali was chef/owner of Restaurant Kody in Evergreen, where he was named “Rising Star Chef” by Rocky Mountain News in 2004, “Top Chef” in 2004 and earned the distinction of being named one of Denver’s top ten restaurants in 2003 by 5280 magazine.
Chef Mali, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, was most recently Executive Chef of the Montecito Restaurant Group in Denver, Colorado, where he oversaw three restaurants – Montecito North, Montecito South and Annabel’s.
Chef Mali was named a “Great Regional Chef of America” by the James Beard Foundation and is a first level sommelier. Mali is also a fully certified Alpine ski instructor. He currently resides in Petaluma with his wife Mary and two kids, Hana and Emma.
Why do you cook?
I can creatively express myself, and it tastes good (mostly)!
What is your favorite spice and why?
Cinnamon. Nice childhood memories (hot mulled cider on a snowy day?)
What food trends do you most agree and disagree with?
I like the trend towards more honest, clean food. Not a big fan of the xanthan gum.
What are the perks of being an accomplished chef?
You get to work a 14 hour day, and wonder where the time went.
Who cooks in your household?
All of us. It’s a family thing.
What is your idea of a perfect professional kitchen?
Perfectly clean, organized where each container is labeled, and the labels all face the same direction.
If you have one tool you can’t live without, it would be?
12” chef’s knife.
What do you wear in the kitchen?
I used to be Chefwear’s favorite customer, now I am most comfortable wearing blue jeans. Always an apron.
What Chef living or dead do you most identify with?
What is your biggest pet peeve in your kitchen?
What term do you most overuse?
“Are you f****ing kidding me?
”What is your favorite cheese?
Point Reyes Blue Cheese. I made my family move to northern California to be closer to where it is made.
What your favorite restaurant?
At the moment, it would be Gjelina in Venice.
What about your profession really irritates you?
Lately, it seems to attract people that don’t want to spend the time in the progression of the kitchen. They graduate culinary school, and want to be Anthony Bourdain. There’s a lot of hard knocks they’re missing.
What food is underrated?
What food is overrated?
Anything that requires xanthan gum, lecithin, or being sous-vided for 6 days, 28 minutes.
If given 4 ingredients to cook with they would be?
Sage, “00” flour, eggs, butter.
What is your favorite cuisine?
Anything that is ingredient/location/tradition driven. I especially like Italian, Thai, and Japanese cuisines.
What/who inspires you?
My wife and daughters.
Jacques Pepin. Don’t think there is anyone bigger.
Aspen Highlands—the bowl!
What is your most marked characteristic?
I am introspective.
What Charity matters to you the most?
Habitat for Humanity.
What is your dream meal?
Soft cooked scrambled eggs with shaved black truffles.
What is your most beloved kitchen appliance?
My kitchen aid mixer, but recently we “adopted” a meat grinder…
What do you value in your employees?
Caring. About the food, service, and eachother.
What do you value in your guest?
The anticipation of the pleasure of a well cooked meal.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
I would actually like to be cooking more. Someone else can fix the Hobart.
What is a signature dish for you?
Roasted red and gold beet ravioli, redwood hill chevre, sage brown butter.
Who would you most like to cook for?
President Obama. I hear he has an appreciation for good food.
Who is your favorite writer?
What is your first memory of cooking?
When I was 7, I made a clam soup, and even wrote the recipe down on an index card. I think if I made it now, I would have to find a different career.
What is in your refrigerator now?
Skim milk, eggs, unsalted butter, capers, anchovies in oil, raspberry jam, mayonaisse, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, pickles, a jar of preserved peaches from 2009, a bottle of moscato d’asti, a bottle of Kendall Jackson chardonnay, Italian parsley, basil, chard, one celery stalk, a few carrots, a packet of dry yeast, and a half eaten bag of chocolate Chanukah gelt. Hey, you asked.
What languages do you speak?
Kitchen Spanish, and I can say “the drugs are not mine” in Thai.
What would you cook for me, if I came in?
Seared Sonoma foie gras, roasted pears in sauternes, toasted brioche if you came in soon.
Thank You Chef,