In conversation with Chef David Blessing, LONGWOOD’s Vice President, Culinary Arts & Development

After the whirled down summer, between Boston, Newport and Cape Cod,we caught up with Chef David, where else, in one of his kitchens.

Q: Chef, what ingredient are you obsessing about this fall?

Chef David: This fall I am completely obsessed with Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese. It is so creamy, pungent and luscious! I try to eat healthy year round and make a lot of salads in the fall with bitter greens like watercress, frisee and endive. I love pairing it with Gorgonzola Dolce, roasted apples, toasted Hazelnuts and dried cherries. Amazing combination.

Q: What’s in your fridge right now?

Chef David: Hmmm… I prepare lots of food in the beginning of the week and right now I have roasted chicken, sautéed swiss chard and kale mix, roasted poblano peppers, my own fresh Salsa and lots and lots of fruit.

Q: What is your typical breakfast?

Chef David: Like most chefs I don’t eat a big breakfast but certainly try. I’m a big fan of power smoothies, quick and nutritious. Mine has organic yogurt, banana, OJ, blueberries, ice, milk, peanut butter.

Q: What do your kids like for dinner?

Chef David: My kids are a little spoiled having a chef for a Dad. I basically short order cook each night asking what they want. My son is obsessed with pasta, he will eat any type and shape with good butter and salt only. My daughter is a great eater. She will eat pretty much anything I prepare but especially likes chicken and vegetables.

Q: Favorite comfort food?

Chef David: It is definitely pasta with my Grandmother Marys’ meat sauce. She is from Abruzzi, Italy and has made the same sauce for me for over 40 years. Tangy and spicy sauce with mild and spicy sausage, peppery meatballs made with pork and beef and her Braciole; bone in pork cutlets all braised in the sauce for hours. Rigatoni and grated pecorino Romano make this my all time favorite comfort food.

Q: For Longwood, which local farmers’ and artisanal products do you enjoy cooking with right now?

Chef David: I am a huge fan of Wards Berry Farm in Sharon, Wilson Farm in Lexington and Lookout Farm in Natick. This time of year we use lot’s of beautiful root vegetables as well as harvest greens like kale and Swiss Chard. Cheeses from Vermont Butter and Creamery are all over the menu and I cook with them obsessively.

 Q: How do you stay fit and healthy as a chef? Do you always taste all the food you make?

Chef David: I believe I stay healthy in part because I am very active in the kitchen. The physical demands of the job are good for my body and mind. I also go to the gym three days a week and try to eat very healthy always.

Yes, any great chef must taste his/her food. In doing so I rarely ever have a meal during the day. Eating small amounts of food throughout the day keeps my metabolism running high.

Q; What is your favorite holiday? In terms of food.

Chef David: Definitely Easter. Easter to me signifies the true start of spring. The spring vegetables that become available after a long winter are so inspiring. They are vibrant in color and texture. I love cooking with asparagus, spring onions, morels, baby beets and radishes.

Q: What twists do you put on your family’s thanksgiving dinner? Ingredients. Unexpected combinations? Or do you keep it classic?

Chef David: I keep things pretty classic. To me Thanksgiving is a time to do traditional food really well. Great ingredients really shine with classically prepared dishes if handled properly. I do like to lighten a few dishes up to achieve more vibrant colors and flavors.

Q: Is there an ingredient that you particularly dislike and avoid using?

Chef David: Baby Patty Pan squash and baby zucchini. I call these the banquet vegetable mix. To me there is virtually no flavor or substance to these vegetables, especially when there are so many beautiful local seasonal ones available.

Q: How has your personal style involved over years and what influences you?

Chef David: My personal cooking style has changed somewhat over the years but not too drastically. At this point in my career I know what I like, what I do well and what I stand for food wise. Visually my food can look pretty straight forward but there is a lot of complexity of flavor in everything I prepare. As I matured professionally my cooking technique caught up to my creative mind. I truly believe I honor the food I cook by preparing in the best way to highlight beauty and flavor. A lot of things influence me finding inspiration in many places when it comes to food. I am influenced most by pleasing people with my food. This makes cooking a very personal thing for me and I believe one can taste the effort and care you put into a meal.

Q: You have cooked for people like President Obama. Does the celebrity status change anything behind the kitchen door?

Chef David: At the end of the day we are serving guests  food and despite having high profile or celebrity guests dining with us not much changes behind the kitchen door other than the intensity of service overall. You certainly want to impress a VIP crowd and people tend to get a bit nervous. For myself and my chefs we are a really just focused on serving the best food we can at all times. I put as much effort into a small wedding or social event as I would for the President.

Q: Do you have any pet peeves in the kitchen? 

Chef David: I would say my major pet peeve in the kitchen is working messy and not working smart. A chefs life in the kitchen is about not wasting energy, no extra steps or creating more work for yourself. Staying organized and clean is a must to be effective. By working smart tasks become easier, take less time and allow for a clear head which is helpful in dealing with the sometimes unpredictable nature of our world inside the kitchen. It’s a simple philosophy for me; work smart, stay clean, be organized.

Q: Do you have a favorite knife or set? What brand do you use? How do you take care of them?

Chef David: When I first started my career I was like a lot of young chefs and had to have the big name brand knives, Henkel’s, Wustoff, Global. I spent a lot of money on these as well any many other tools. Over the years  I have accumulated quite a few knives but have come to appreciate each type and brand of knife for different reasons. I choose knives that work well for a particular task. For example; If I am doing a lot of prep dicing, chopping etc. I prefer a 10 inch chefs knife but with a thin blade. Wustoff and Henkels are rather thick and cumbersome so I use an F.Dick which is sturdy with a thinner blade making this task much easier, ergonomically speaking. For small tasks I use a Global 8 inch knife that is very versatile.

Q: Do you play music when cooking? 

Chef David: Yes, I do. In fact many of my kitchen staff might say I want to be a singer because I am constantly singing. I’ll stick with my day job though! I especially enjoy having background music on when I am cooking at home. I find it relaxing to cook and have music playing.

Thank you Chef!

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