By Paul Giorgio
Name: Steve Champagne
Education: Graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts; also has a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Central New England College.
Current Position: Executive Chef, Niche Hospitality Group, owners of Block 5 Bistro, Bocado, & Mezcal
Prior Restaurant Experience: Executive Chef Struck Café; staff, 111 Chop House and The Sole Proprietor
Other: Lives in Millbury with his wife and 2 children
What made you switch from engineering to cooking? I enjoyed cooking more than engineering. I made the switch during the recession in the 90s. I finished cooking school in 1994. I thought cooking would be fun & exciting.
What is your cooking philosophy? I like classic techniques with bold flavors and fresh ingredients.
Do you like your flavors bold? If you say you’re going to taste basil & garlic, you’d better taste it. You shouldn’t have to look to find the mushroom in a mushroom risotto.
What are your favorite flavors? I love basil and garlic together, I like Asian spices, and I love to grill.
What 3 things are in your home refrigerator? Cheeses, mustards, & bottles of wine
I’ll run out of milk for the kids but I never run out of wine.
Who are your favorite chefs? I guess Jacques Pepin and Mario Battali ~ and I liked watching Julia Child when I was growing up. She came into the cooking school one time while I was cooking I also helped on her show Master Chef, which was filmed at her house.
What’s your goal in life? To retire! No, it’s to own some restaurants ~ hopefully business will settle down soon so that I can enjoy my family.
Would you encourage your kids to go into the restaurant business? If they have a passion for it, but they haven’t said they want to own a restaurant yet.
Who was the most famous person you have cooked for during your career? Julia Child, when she came to the Cambridge Culinary College, and Governor Jane Swift when she came to the Struck Café.
What was your biggest kitchen disaster? I foolishly started a new menu once at the Struck on New Year’s Eve. The food was backed up and people waited for hours.
What was your greatest accomplishment? Opening of the 3 restaurants we have in Worcester. All our reviews have been good. I can say it’s my restaurant and my food.
Are you managing or cooking now? I still cook but mange a lot more. I’m on the line at both Bocado & Block 5 a couple of times a week. I make the sauces and create all of the menus.
How do you deal with 3 different Sous Chefs in 3 different places? I deal with them differently, since each is an individual with different strengths & weaknesses.
What’s your favorite item to cook? I love to grill a nice piece of meat. I use a charcoal at home.
Any ambition to write a cook book? It crosses my mind but it’s a lot of work. A lot of books don’t succeed because chefs don’t work out the recipes for the home cook.
Do you have a favorite cookbook? I guess I would have to say Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook.” It’s more of a technical reference, but it has a ton of recipes. It’s a good How To book.
How many cookbooks do you have? I think about 30.
Which is your favorite restaurant, Block 5 or Bocado? That’s like asking which of my children I like better! Block 5 is more complicated than Bocado, that much I will say.
Where do you like to eat out? I really don’t get a chance to go out much now but I’ve been on a sushi kick lately so I’ve been going to Yama Zakura in Northboro.
What do you predict as the next food trends? A lot more local sourcing. Going green, not buying something that is trucked in from California ~ because of the gas cost and the freshness. I think you will see a great many local chefs trying to buy locally. Of course that’s a lot easier to do in California than here. In terms of cooking, I have read that Korean is up and coming.