Chef Profile: Nick Duncan 

In the kitchen with the chef at La Belle Vie

Nick Duncan

Laurie Pearman

Nick Duncan

Age: 30

Restaurant: La Belle Vie

Number of years in the restaurant business: Six

Past Experience:

Graduate of Boise State's culinary arts program. Breakfast cook at Chandlers Steakhouse breakfast cafe in Hotel 43. Intern at Brick 29. Line cook at Mortimer's and Cafe de Paris. Sous chef at Bella Aquila.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Toasted pugliese bread with fresh almond butter and strawberry preserves.

Throughout your career in Idaho, how has the restaurant scene changed and how have you adapted to those changes?

Over the last few years, many restaurants have had to close their doors. This is a shame because it has forced many chefs and restaurants to stop being quite so adventurous and basically play it safe.

I also think that quality in both ingredients and also technique has fallen by the wayside in many restaurants simply because they are trying to survive. I believe, however, that you'll find over the next couple years that the chefs and restaurants that really focus on quality will come out on top in the end. This is what we strive for at La Belle Vie.

What do you look to as inspiration for new recipes?

I'm a huge fan of the locavore artisanal movement that is taking place in farming and cooking. I love taking old traditional cooking techniques and recipes and putting new spins on them.

How do you innovate without excluding diners?

It's all about the taste. You can have the most beautiful dish in the world with bright vibrant colors, exotic ingredients and served in a great atmosphere, but if it tastes bad, it doesn't matter. I think that if you focus on flavor and the final "taste" of the dish, you can be as innovative as you like if the people eating your dish like it.

What dish would you like to include on your menu, but worry that it might be too forward-thinking for this market?

Offal--of all kinds. Like sweetbreads or tripe.

What's the one ingredient you can't live without in your kitchen?

Salt. I'm curing something at least once a week, whether it's duck confit or homemade sauerkraut. Also, simple things like blanching vegetables or cooking pasta just don't taste right unless there is salt involved.

What one great meal do you fix only for yourself?

My own Mediterranean risotto, chock full of sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, capers and spicy Italian sausage. That is my own personal comfort food.

What's the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a dish?

Bear. I made a chorizo style bear sausage once.

Where do you like to eat in town?

I've been very impressed with Flatbread Community Oven.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat three things the rest of your life, what would they be?

Well since I wouldn't want to live very long on an island that was deserted and could only have three types of food, I would pick scotch, oatmeal stout and a good brunello di montalcino.

Describe the restaurant you would create if cost and demographic were not an issue.

I would like a nice two-story restaurant out in the middle of the country surrounded by fields and vineyards where I would serve local produce and meats along with local wines and beers. I would also love to have an amazing wine cellar that carried thousands of labels of not only wines but spirits as well. •

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