Today is National Grilled Cheese Day, so what better time to interview the King of the Grilled Cheese, Jason Sobocinski of Caseus Fromagerie Bistro than today? Chef Sobocinski is the owner and founder of New Haven's innovative cheese-centric gastropub and cheese shop. A graduate of Providence College, Chef Sobocinki earned his master’s in gastronomy at Boston University and after working his way through the ranks at the Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, he opened Caseus.
1. If you had unexpected guests arriving at your home for dinner in 1 hour, what would you whip up? What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?
I'd probably put out a few hunks of cheese, surprise. I always have good bread on hand, jam, mustards, crackers...I like the idea of having a grilled cheese party where you lay out bread, different cheeses, and condiments and let guests make their own creation. Bust out a couple of bottles of wine and everyone is happy. I’m actually judging a grilled cheese recipe and wine pairing contest. Last dish I cooked for myself was left over Easter Ham, fried up in brown butter with two over easy eggs and a hunk of bread baked in the oven. I covered the entire plate with finely grated black diamond cheddar and then a drizzle of maple syrup. This was around 1am last night. I had a Cadbury Caramel Egg for desert with a glass of St. Francis Zinfandel.
2. What are your guilty pleasures in terms of food?
I like to eat junk food. I love potato chips, really salty ones like salt and vinegar and bbq chips. If left alone with a full bag, I'll destroy it. I also love all chocolate both high and low end varieties, must have bacon, bbq and love anything fried. But I think of these things as pleasures and rarely feel guilty for eating. I'm here to enjoy food. I try not to do anything I'd feel guilty about especially eating.
3. Ingredient you could not live without? (and if it is cheese, what else besides cheese!?)
Onions, Eggs, Cheese of course, Black Pepper, Maple Syrup, Bourbon, Beer, Wine, Fennel, Potatoes, Bread, Rice, I could go on...
4. Chef you'd most like to meet?
I'd love to meet Eric Ripert in person. I've eaten at his restaurant Le Bernadin and I was thoroughly impressed. I'd also love to meet Brillat Savarin, the grandfather of Gastronomy that coined the term roughly "you are what you eat" just to ask him if he was being literal.
5. You spend a lot of time in New Haven, are there any hidden gems or favorite spots you recommend we check out (in addition to Caseus, of course!)
Rubamba has great Arepas
Mezcal has really good fish tacos
Guadalupa Poblanita has amazing tacos
Best Cheesecakes ever are from my old bosses at Chestnut Fine Foods
Johnny Salamis has a Cuban Egg Roll that is ridiculous, I can't explain it, it'd sound nasty, it's delicious.
Bar pizza, with cheese from Caseus, this happens every so often and should not be missed.
Caseus has the best cheeseburger IN THE WORLD. I'm not biased, it's a fact.
6. Worst kitchen nightmare?
Our oven literally just stopped working one night at Caseus. We have only one oven, without it we were done for. We had to limit our menu down to salad and cheeseboards....was not good. Ended up buying a new oven for the next days service.
7. Most useful kitchen tool or appliance?
Spoons. I love a good spoon.
I also collect Mortar and Pestles but they're not the most useful things ever. A good spoon can do a ton of things in a kitchen, using a spoon to taste one's food before serving it being the most important!
8. What dish on your menu most defines you and your cooking style?
Probably the Grilled Cheese...It's big, filling, over the top, very rich and satisfying. Pair it with a glass of wine and you’re good to go. But watch out, if you eat too much grilled cheese, you might not be very happy!
9. What defines an outstanding meal for you? Where have you had your most memorable meal? (at a home, a restaurant, traveling, etc.)
Most important ingredient for me in defining an outstanding meal would be the company that I keep while enjoying said meal. I honestly could eat old gas station sandwiches with good friends and family and enjoy it as much as a uber high priced meal at an upscale joint. Most memorable meal would be the first meal I had with my son on his 6 month birthday when he could finally eat solid foods. I made him bbq pulled berkshire pork pizza with clothbound cheddar. I'll never forget the look on his face when he took that first bite.
10. Who do you like to cook for the most?
My son and my wife, my family and my friends...anyone. I love feeding people and can think of nothing more satisfying.
11. If we opened up your refrigerator at home, what would we find?
Milk, Eggs and Cheese always, Half bottles of wine, a few beers, yogurt and tons of pickled veggies. We try not to keep too much in the fridge cause we're just not around to eat it as much as we should be.
12. Extracurricular activity you enjoy when not cooking?
I love to play soccer. I play indoor during the winter and the outdoor season for the Caseus FC (football club) we're the New Haven Men's Over 30 team, starts this Sunday!
13. People would be surprised to know that you...
I gave my son his middle name after a vintage motorcycle I own and love to ride.