Who: Jason Goodenough
What: Chef who has currently begun The New Culinarian, which is an experiential travel business seeking to blend high-end hospitality with immersive culinary education
Interview Location: He was having a mug of coffee next to the cool mountains of North Carolina
KC: What does the phrase, “a bad taste in my mouth” mean to you?
JG: That’s actually a surprisingly tough question. I absolutely think that the phrase connects to cooking and to life, but, then again, pretty much everything I do I bring back to food in one way or another.
I feel like I spent a lot of time with a bad taste in my mouth, unfortunately. My wife has to tolerate the way I respond to little irritable and various things that I find, especially when we go out to eat in restaurants. When it comes to food and life, I can taste lazy, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I don’t like to taste laziness, and that applies to my own life. If I’m not happy with something I made or something I did, then I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to simply let it be.
KC: How do you make adventure in life, especially when you land on something, like a recipe, that works perfectly?
JG: That’s hard because when something is effective, you don’t want to change it. For me, adventure in cooking is about learning new things, experimenting, and trying things that force me to step out of my comfort zone.
I have to say, though, when you find something that works, it’s just awesome.
Many times, I feel like I’m the most satisfied with situations when I make a mistake, but that mistake ends up turning into an unknown adventure that tastes amazing. For instance, one time I forgot the pork belly I was curing in the walk-in for three extra days. Sure, that seemed like a mistake, but I went with it, wanted to see what happened, and it was unbelievable. Then that becomes the way we prepare that item.
In a way, adventure is focusing with an end goal in mind and not only trying to line up the pieces to get there but also not resisting the mistakes that come into play. You have to run with it and see what happens.
My wife is a psychiatrist, and she says I have the worst ADHD of any person on the face of the earth, so novelty is essential for me. I have to be trying new things and experimenting with new parts of life and cooking.
KC: Is there an unknown in your life that’s proverbially on the “tip of your tongue.” You can’t explain or describe it, but you can feel its presence?
JG: I have been so focused on perfecting certain dishes. I just made biscuits downstairs for my family, and I used to really screw biscuits up. Badly. It used to be a real point of embarrassment for me to be a somewhat renowned southern chef that couldn’t make great biscuit. But I’ve clawed my way out of that abyss. At Carrollton Market, I never served a biscuit, and I never served gumbo — because no one’s gumbo is as good as your mama’s gumbo, right?
And I grew up on the upper east side of Manhattan, so I’m not exactly a multigenerational cajun who’s cooking gumbo, but I’m working on perfecting what I haven’t perfected. I’ve been working on the perfect chicken breast because chicken breasts can be so boring, and I refuse to let a chicken breast be boring. There’s a time to play when creating meals, and that’s what I’m doing.
KC: This is going to be a pairing: pick your 2 favorite dishes to make and your single favorite dish to eat, but pair a song with each of them that you want to have playing during the activity.
JG: That’s so hard, especially because I’m constantly changing. I really like EDM. I grew up in New York City in the 90s, so it was the time of Limelight and Tunnel. I still love EDM, so I’ll put on a DJ set when I’m cooking.
As a family, we usually put on…well, my wife controls the music when we’re eating. She’ll put on Pandora and choose something like ‘French Cooking Music’ or ‘Italian Cooking Music.’ When I’m cooking, though, I have to have something with a beat.
KC: Is there someone you want to thank, and maybe you already have, but you feel like you can never thank them enough?
JG: Most definitely my wife and children. Honesty, just for putting up with me. Two-and-a-half months after opening my restaurant business we had my second daughter while my wife was in her third year of residency at Tulane. It was so brutal for a couple of years.
Yet, we made it happen. It wasn’t easy to deal with those first years because every day was a struggle, and no one knew how it was going to turn out. They put up with me every moment.
KC: There’s the phrase ‘vale la pena,” which means ‘worth the pain.’ What in your life do you think is ‘vale la pena’?
JG: Creating great experiences for people. That’s what I love to do, even though it is incredibly hard work. With The New Culinarian, I’ll be creating meals and working with all this different food and then washing everyone’s dishes and making sure that everything is organized, and I have to be ‘on’ that entire time, but when you see that everyone is having the most amazing time and they have absolutely loved the experience, it makes it all worth it.
When I grew up, my dad was a finance guy on Wall Street. He is a super guy and super successful, so we grew up going to all of these restaurants that were unbelievable. I think I went to my first three-star Michelin restaurant when I was six or seven years old, so I have this database of great experiences when it comes to food. We traveled around Europe, and I lived in England for a few years. We’d go to France and Italy and eat great food.
I remember eating at a place where they were famous for their lobster souffle. I was maybe six or seven years old, and I didn’t like that souffle at all. Without asking any questions, they took it and brought me something else. There wasn’t any judgment apparent to the guest because it was about my experience. A similar situation happened at one of the great restaurants of Paris when I was 12 and so hungry that I finished my tiny little dinky plates in no time, and they brought another one for free. It’s those extra things and those moments when people take you into consideration that stay with you. I want to do that for people. I want them to have experiences that they’ll always keep with them.
Chef Jason Goodenough has launched The New Culinarian, which offers luxury travel for the gourmet enthusiast. This food tour combines culinary training in professional kitchens, VIP access to the best restaurants and Chefs, and accommodations fit for the most discerning traveler. You can check out full details on The New Culinarian website or check it out on Instagram and Facebook.