Starting as a dishwasher at Twist in Hyde Park, New York, and working his way up to executive chef there, Chris Royster knows how to run a restaurant from the ground up. He worked as sous chef at Zucca Italian Restaurant in Louisville and next door as executive chef at The Huckleberry before moving up the hill to become sous chef at The Flagstaff House.
Strongest food memory
My exposure to food cooked from scratch and food that was grown in the backyard or food that was taken through hunting was huge. My father’s parents always had the family over on Sundays. I have many memories of my grandfather smoking venison on the porch or my grandmother cleaning fresh green beans from the garden.
Ingredient you’re obsessed with right now
Anything made from scratch. I recently started making my own butter and I have been playing with different charcuterie like pancetta and prosciutto. Working with ingredients that I made myself makes me feel connected to the end product.
Kitchen tool you can’t live without
Terrines. I can’t go more than a couple weeks without making a pate or a terrine.
Most memorable meal
That’s really hard. If I had to pinpoint one it would probably be Gotham in Manhattan because it was my first fine-dining experience, and I still remember how perfect the service was, how perfectly seasoned the food was and how beautiful the plates were. Even the petite fours were beautiful.
Tasting with your fingers. Not OK!
Favorite music in the kitchen
I was taught to appreciate a quiet kitchen so I don’t listen to music while I cook. The sizzles and clanks of a kitchen are music.
If you weren’t cooking
I don’t like to think about that. I am a kitchen lifer. I did take some classes in business, and I found it pretty interesting. I also did some carpentry work when I was younger. I hope to have a future in business with restaurants so that is probably the direction I would have gone.
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
By Adam Royster
Flagstaff House, Boulder
• 6 C. Heirloom tomatoes,
• 4 C. Nicoise olive loaf, large diced (also good with Kalamata olive loaf or baguette)
• 1 Tbsp garlic, minced to
• 2 Tbsp shallots, minced
• 2 Tbsp basil, chiffonade
• ¼ C. good quality red
• ¼ C. good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus enough to coat the bread with
• Salt and black pepper to taste
Toss the bread with olive oil, salt and pepper. In a 275-degree oven, slowly toast the bread allowing all the moisture to cook out. Using the side of a knife, crush the minced garlic until it is a paste. Gently mix all the ingredients except the bread and allow it to marinate for a few hours. Toss in the bread and enjoy immediately. Whatever will not be eaten immediately should not be mixed with bread because it will become soggy and break down.