This week, we ask some questions of another one of our favorite chefs, who uses Lava Lake Lamb: Chris Kastner of CK’s.

When did you first know you wanted to become a chef?

I think I knew cooking was my thing when I started washing dishes in 1977. I liked the food, the people, the whole energy in the kitchen-restaurant scene. I liked working at night and playing all day.

In 1982 after working my way up and around in the Sun Valley Inn kitchen and later at Elkhorn in the long gone Village Café where I was the boss for the first time it dawned on me that I needed to make a commitment to learn more and get better so I downsized to a smaller restaurant with the focus on quality and creativity.

What are your favorite parts of being in the kitchen?

My favorite part is when someone who just ate my food comes back in the kitchen and  tells me how much they loved it. Especially when I hear they travel a lot and are foodies or pro diners.

I also like finding a new dish and developing it or tweaking it so it fits in with local and regional ingredients and then having that dish be a hit with our customers.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is always growing and trying to stay with the food scene. People’s taste changes and what works one week may not work or sell at all a month later.

Also, the frustration of hearing second hand that someone had a bad experience or was disappointed after their dinner. It happens, but very rarely. It kills me. I wish if someone’s expectations on a particular item are not met, they would tell their waiter right away so I can make it right. I can’t do anything after they leave to fix the problem.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to mountain bike, hike, telemark ski on Baldy and the backcountry, garden some and go to dinner with my wife and partner at CK’s to do research and keep an eye on the restaurant world outside our valley.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Some would be surprised to know that I have taken a hiatus from Hang Gliding to risk it all by opening our own place CK’s Real Food. The restaurant business is much more dangerous than Hang Gliding.

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