Carlos Salazar, head toque at Rook, comes by his adventurous palate honestly, having grown up on traditional Filipino dishes—like stewed oxtail with fermented shrimp paste—in a home permeated with the soothingly pungent aromas of vinegar and braised meats. But Salazar says he had no interest in cooking until high school, when he taught himself to whip up scrambled eggs. “I always made them for my friends for breakfast when they slept over,” he says.
Today, Salazar can still be found frying up an egg or two, but now they are more likely to top off Asian-inspired creations like Pig Face Hash. Salazar’s take on the classic corned-beef dish packs a saltier, crunchier zing thanks to the namesake meat (which is exactly what it sounds like). “It’s one of those things that I didn’t think would sell, but people are loving it,” he says.
Perhaps this second-guessing is to be expected—especially when serial restaurateur Ed Rudisell is relying on him to liven up the dinner menu. “On the first day, I actually had to stop and take a few minutes to breathe and relax,” says Salazar. But now, about five months into his post as head chef and co-owner, Salazar’s jitters are long gone—and Indy’s tastebuds are rising to the occasion of his unexpected concoctions.
Carlos Salazar's Favorite Things
1) Turtle cheesecake: "It's my favorite dessert that my wife makes me on special occasions."
2) Golfing: "I've been playing for 20 years. My favorite course is Bear Slide in Cicero."
3) My 9-month-old daughter: "She is my everything. I do things right now so that in the future my daughter can say that she is proud of me, whether it's about being a chef, father, or husband."
4) Fancy cars: "It's always been a dream to own a really expensive car, like a Ferrari or a Bentley, but I know it's only a dream."
This article appeared in the January 2014 issue.