John Dornback, owner and chef at the little, lively and lovely Basi Italia in Victorian Village, displayed such a tidy sense of narrative and a flair for verbal expression in writing me a mini-bio that I decided I couldn't do any better, so here it is in the chef's own words.
"Born and raised in sunny Cleveland, I became interested in the mechanics of cooking. It was a way to escape the ordinary. It became a passion which led me to New York City and studies at the French Culinary Institute under Chef Jacques Pepin. Twenty years and a million meals later, I own the restaurant I always dreamed of. Oh yeah, and I got the girl, too."
Describe a meal you'd make to celebrate spring.
Maybe a saute of fiddlehead ferns, spring peas, fava beans and morel mushrooms. A simple cheese risotto and soft poached eggs. And a glass of something bubbly.
What was the best meal you've ever had?
I am halfway though the menu of life. I will let you know when I get there.
What would you cook for President Obama if he visited your restaurant?
Anything he wants.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Butter. It makes everything better.
What are your guilty food pleasures?
Funyuns, dark chocolate and almonds.
Are there any foods you won't eat no matter how they're prepared?
Do you have a "hangover cure" meal?
Warm chicken broth with jalapeno, lime and garlic. It really works!
What's your favorite cheese?
Do you watch any chef-oriented reality TV shows?
No, there's not enough reality in them.
What might we be surprised to find in your refrigerator right now?
Miracle Whip, applesauce and Fresca.
If you weren't cheffing, what might you be doing?
What kind of influences make their way into your cooking?
I like clean, simple food. I studied at a French cooking school and that has been a great foundation, but the approach of Italian and Mediterranean cooking is where I feel the most comfortable. It takes real restraint to not overcomplicate a dish.
Do you have a go-to quickie meal you make after a long workday?
[My wife] Trish makes the greatest "cheat" pasta sauce ... her thing.