Rocco Whalen loves food — shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, discussing it. “I enjoy everything about food,” says the gregarious owner of Fahrenheit.
Occasionally, though, even Whalen, a Mentor grad with Wolfgang Puck-instilled kitchen cred, needs a shot of inspiration. Next to travel, Whalen’s favorite way to jump-start the juices is by hitting Cleveland’s Asiatown. “I’m a huge fan of the Asian marketplace,” he says. “The seafood, the spices, the sweets.” It’s only natural, then, that Asian flavors wend their way into Whalen’s pantry. Curry, coriander and Chinese five-spice powder often appear in his food. “They are incredibly fragrant,” Whalen says, “and they add amazing depth to whatever dish we add them.”
But Whalen is a Zenlike master of restraint. “I’m not a fan of stacking a ton of different flavors together on a plate, like kumquat-raisin-lemon whatever,” he says. “I try and keep the focus on a few high-quality ingredients. You want to let the flavors speak for themselves.”
Two flavors that have been speaking to Whalen lately are beef and blue cheese. “We make these killer Kobe sliders with blue cheese,” he boasts. “The cheese melts right into the meat as they cook, giving you little blasts of flavor as you eat them. They’re awesome.”