English 101

Study up on acclaimed chef Todd English.
By Denise Gee

Zagat calls superstar chef Todd English's food "lusty, gutsy cooking." We happily agree. Here, you can nibble on some Todd trivia and a bonus recipe.

VITALS: Born August 29, 1960, in Amarillo, Texas; raised there, Atlanta, Georgia, and Branford, Connecticut.

EDUCATION: Guilford College, North Carolina; The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York; apprenticeships at Dal Pescatore in Canto Sull O'lio, Italy, and Paraccuchi in Locando D'Angello, Italy.

HOW HE GOT INTO THE BUSINESS: "One night, when I was 14, I stopped by to see my friend Ivan. He was working at a little Mexican place in Branford, Connecticut, and he asked if I had plans for the evening--thinking he had something great in mind, I said that I had none. Instead, he said that his dishwasher was sick and asked if I could help out. There was no dishwasher; you washed the pots and plates and silverware by hand. I just jumped right in and for some strange reason, I really loved it. I don't know why--well, okay, you got as much free beer as you wanted." (From Todd's first book, The Olives Table; see "His Books," below.)

BOY MEETS GIRL: In 1982, Todd met his wife-to-be, Olivia, during their studies at The Culinary Institute of America. "I took her picture for her school ID. You know, love at first snap." (From The Olives Table)

CAREER HIGHS: Working with Jean-Jacques Rachou at La Cote Basque in New York, and his top professional honors--especially his James Beard awards: "National Rising Star Chef" (1991), the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence (1991), and "Best Chef: Northeast" (1994) .

NEAR-HIT CAREER: "It would have to be baseball, in that I wonder what would have happened if I had given it more of a shot," he told Nation's Restaurant News. "I played from the time I was 7 years old. My father was a first baseman coach," he told starchefs.com. "I had opportunities that I never really pursued--with some Miami teams and a few larger colleges--and then I ended up bailing and began cooking."

GUILTY PLEASURE: Peanut butter and jelly.

HIS BOOKS:

The Olives Table: Over 160 Recipes from the Critically Acclaimed Restaurant and Home Kitchen of Todd English, co-authored with Sally Sampson (Simon & Schuster, 1997).

The Figs Table: More than 100 Recipes for Pizza, Pastas, Salads, and Desserts, co-authored with Sally Sampson (Simon & Schuster, 1998).

The Olives Dessert Table: Spectacular Restaurant Desserts You Can Make at Home, co-authored with Paige Retus and Sally Sampson (Simon & Schuster, 2000).

HIS RESTAURANTS: Todd's restaurants consistently receive rave reviews for their worldbeat fare. Next stop? Maybe London. For now, head to:

Olives--his most acclaimed Mediterranean-influenced restaurant, with its original location near Boston in Charlestown, Massachusetts (617/242-1999; since 1989). Newer locations in Washington, D.C. (202/452-1866); Las Vegas (702/693-8181); Aspen (970/920-7356); and New York City (718/423-6095).

Figs--a family-friendly retreat known for its homey pizza and pastas. Massachusetts locations in Charlestown (617/242-2229); Boston (617/742-3447); Wellesley (781/237-5788); and Chestnut Hill (617/738-9992). There's also a location at New York City's LaGuardia Airport, Central Terminal Building (718/446-7600).

Miramar--fine dining at The Inn at National Hall, Westport, Connecticut; 203/222-2267 or www.innatnationalhall.com.

Greg Norman's Australian Grille--fine dining at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, SC; 843/361-0000.

Kingfish Hall--sumptuous seafood at Faneuil Hall, Boston; 617/523-8862.