Tory McPhail hails from Ferndale, Washington, a small town near the Canadian border, where he learned to appreciate local foods and the comfortable gathering place of his parents’ kitchen. Corn planted in the spring would become dinner in the summer; fish caught in the afternoon from his family’s stocked pond would make it to the plate by dusk. His culinary path brought him to his position as executive chef at the historic Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, whose storied chef legacy includes Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. McPhail delights in embracing Creole traditions while updating classic dishes with fresh, local ingredients.
Q&A Tory McPhail
Describe the Southeast: Haute Creole: a fancy interpretation of traditional Louisiana styles
What is your favouriteingredient to cook with? I get bored easily, so my flavour of the week, well, changes weekly, sometimes daily, depending on what's happening. I do love fresh seafood, root beer-braised lamb bellies, funky new foods that I've never seen before, crazy ethnic foods and fresh mushrooms cooked down with caramelised garlic, shallots, brandy, thyme and brown butter.
What is your favourite regional dish? Anything with seafood (more seafood travels through the state of Louisiana than any of the other lower 48).
What tasty bite should travellers to the Southeast not miss? Gumbo – it is the quintessential New Orleans dish, and everyone has a version, from the home cook to the po-boy shop to fine-dining restaurants.
What inspires you about your region? So many things – history, geography, tradition, opportunity, excitement and the seasons (here the seasons are football, parade, crawfish and festival).
What inspires you about your work? Cooking great food is inspiring enough. Through my dedication and hard work, our guests at Commander’s Palace frequently walk out with a great dining memory that will last a lifetime.
What’s your favourite place to visit in the US? The Rocky Mountains – skiing when there is snow, mountain biking and hiking when there isn’t. The views are stunning.
Where is your favourite city to eat in the US? If I can’t pick New Orleans, then it has to be New York City – it’s like Disney World for chefs.
Who/What inspired you to become a chef? I was inspired by hard work on the family farm and having the chance to run around a grocery store after hours because my mom used to be a bookkeeper for Mark & Pack [a local grocery chain] in the '70s in Ferndale, Washington.
How are you inspired by your environment and the seasonal foods in the US? I am very inspired by seasonal cooking! It’s what makes New Orleans food taste so unique.
How has American culture shaped the way you cook? I've lived all over the US and feel like every experience has helped to shape me.
What international influences have inspired your cooking? It’s certainly shaped the way I cook. However, I've also lived in London and the Caribbean, and that's also shaped the way I view good cooking.
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