A fun Q&A with some of the state’s up-and-coming chefs as well as culinary superstars.
Photography by Amy Long
JAMES BEST (Online Exclusive)
Chef/Owner of Skinny J’s in Jonesboro, Paragould and North Little Rock
Hometown: Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Are you a formally trained chef or an on-the-job-trained cook? Yes I was formally trained at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
How many years have you worked in the food industry? 10.
What or who inspired you to become a chef/cook? I have always had a passion for cooking. I started out cooking for my friends in high school and college and decided to pursue my interest in cooking by going to culinary school.
What was the first item or meal you prepared? If my memory is correct, I believe I tried to cook salmon patties with baby green peas like my grandma cooked for me; it definitely didn’t turn out like Grandma’s.
What is your favorite meal to prepare? Homemade lasagna.
What is your favorite meal? Pan seared sirloin steak, brown gravy with mushrooms, homemade buttermilk biscuits and fried potatoes.
What is your favorite meal to eat out? I just like to try anything different when I go out to eat, things that I don’t get every day.
What is your favorite junk food? I love any kind of taffy candy.
What is your favorite type of cuisine? Italian.
What is your favorite utensil, gadget or piece of equipment? I love a good chef’s knife.
Where do you find new recipes? I get lots of ideas from other restaurants when I travel. I also watch shows on the Food Network and Travel Channel.
For whom would you most like to prepare a meal? I would love to be able to cook for my grandparents. Three of them passed away before I opened my first restaurant.
Music or silence? Music.
Salty or sweet? Salty.
Bake or nah? Nah.
Beer, wine or cocktail? Depends on the situation. I definitely love a good beer, but I also love a cocktail or a good glass of wine with a nice dinner.
Do you cook at home? When I have the time — I love to have family and friends over and prepare a big meal for them.
What food or meal do you wish you’d invented? Ranch dressing!
What food trends do you like or hate the most? I love that food trucks that are becoming popular — they put a new twist on everyday items.