10 Questions with Ian Vest, Back 40 Kitchen in Greenwich

Amy Kundrat

Chef Ian Vest of Greenwich's Back 40 Kitchen began his career as a busboy at thirteen years old. Since his teens, he has worked in top kitchens including Daniel Boulud's Manhattan hotspot, DBGB, where he served as Executive Chef. Ian's culinary ethos always begins by considering source—a fitting parallel for the refined farmhouse feel of Back 40 Kitchen in Greenwich, which gets much of its produce from its own farm in Washington, Connecticut. 

Get to know Connecticut's newest culinary transplant, his recent late night cravings, his chef mentor, and why making it rain truffles is not always a good thing.

Why did you become a chef?

I began as a busboy at the age of thirteen. I was young and wanted money. Over the years I bounced from position to position and eventually found myself in the kitchen. I really enjoyed the pace of the job and cooking for people. My mother told me from a very young age to do what you love and everything else will fall into place. 

What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?  

I made myself a burger at 1 am after getting home from work. Cravings are strange and very convincing. 

Last place you ate out at (other than Back 40)?

My wife and I stopped by Minetta Tavern for a late dinner after a show. We had the oysters and crempanette, morels and fava beans, finishing with funny enough the black label burger. 

Guilty food pleasures?  

Caesar salads! People turn their nose to them but I love them. What's not to love crunchy romaine, parmigian regiano, anchovies, egg yolk, yes! 

What ingredient could you not live without? 

Chili flake. I need heat.

The chef you'd most like to spend the day with is... Why?   

James Fiala. My mentor in Saint Louis. Great person and a phenomenal cook. 

What's in your fridge?

Currently? Stinky cheese, some sort of cured charcuterie, eggs, Basque style cider, some greens that have seen better days, and a sour dough starter.

What was your worst kitchen nightmare? 

When I was working at Daniel a small to go box of chopped fresh black truffle caught on the frame while opening my drawer and exploded. It was the top drawer too so I literally made it rain truffles all over my mise en place. That was pretty stressful. 

What is your most useful kitchen tool or appliance?

A good cook. They are hard to find and no value can be placed on having a solid team running with you. 

What dish on your menu most defines you and your cooking style? 

Pan roasted salmon over summer squash, cannelini beans, grilled corn, and pesto. I love a perfectly medium rare crispy skin on piece of salmon. It has everything you want texture, fat, and flavor. The garnish on this dish is bright, flavorful, and looks amazing on the plate. 

Most memorable meal?

Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain. I was there with mine and my wife's family directly after we were married this past June. Perfection is hard to find in life but I would say that was pretty close. 

When you're not cooking, you're... 

I run when I'm off. Not sure why I just like it. Aside from that and cooking at home not really sure; we play darts sometimes?