Jonathan Bennett grew up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, where his mom owned a hair salon and his dad looked after the family farm. So for Bennett, it was either cook or starve. He chose wisely, and in doing so, came to enjoy the instant gratification cooking provided. What started out as a necessity has grown into a profession that includes mentoring the young cooks who enter his kitchen.
His philosophy on flavor stems from constantly reading (Cook’s Illustrated,Food & Wine andGourmet are among his staples)and researching ways to teach cooks how to slow down and reallytaste something — orsmell something. “Besides the five things your tongue can taste, everything else is through your nose,” Bennett says. “Take wine. ... Your nose can tell if that’s a good wine before it hits your tongue — the tongue isn’t as sensitive.”
He attributes his point of view to chef Shirley Chang, who taught Asian cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America (his alma mater). “I really liked the way she taught [us] to contrast and complement flavors,” he says.
Bennett doesn’t use Asian ingredients, per se, but he appreciates a philosophy that encourages pairing diverse flavor profiles. “Where,” he asks, “would we be without sweet and sour?”