10 Questions with the "Singing" Chef Neil Fuentes

Amy Kundrat

Chef Entertainer Neil Fuentes (a.k.a. "The Singing Chef") was recently featured on the Food Channel giving audiences a tour of one of his favorite New Haven spots, Rubamba. We sat down with Neil to discuss his favorite ingredients, kitchen nightmares, and go-to dishes. 

1. If you had unexpected guests arriving at your home for dinner in one hour, what would you whip up?

One of the most effective recipes I like to make when I am in a rush is my Mustard Chicken, It’s fast, with deep flavors and really quick. I grab whatever I have in the freezer, chicken breast, chicken thighs, a whole chicken or whatever. I place the chicken in a large soup pot! I put water until it’s covered with water. Put on the stove on high and cover. To that I add 3/4 cup of good old yellow mustard. 1 tbsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste. I let the chicken boil covered for 15 minutes. Then I uncover the chicken and keep it on high. The liquid will start reducing creating a super delicious sauce. Once the sauce is thick I shut the stove off. At that pout I take the chicken out of the pot and place it on a baking sheet with a rack and put it under the broiler until it is nice and brown. I serve this chicken with a simple rice and sweet fried plantains.

2. What is the last dish you cooked for yourself?

A cheese Omelet. After a long day of making fancy food and tasting, nothing better than a good old american cheese omelet.

3. What ingredient could you not live without?

Garlic. Garlic is the spinal chord of any dish of mine.

4. What was your worst kitchen nightmare?

Not really a kitchen nightmare, but a food related nightmare, I used to be an international flight attendant back in 1992. On MY VERY First flight, which was a Caracas-Miami-Caracas flight early in the morning, I was assigned to the Galley. The Galley Flight attendant is in charge of heating the food up and preparing the trolleys for the “cabin” flight attendants, which distributed the food. We had a full flight, 230 passengers in coach and 25 passengers in First Class. Back then we used to serve full meals in a 2.5 hr flight. The choice that morning was Omelet or Pancakes. I placed my 230 meals in the oven for half hour AS THE MANUAL SPECIFIES. (They are 50/50 pancakes and omelets). When I took the food out of the oven I almost had a heart attack. ALL THE OMELETS were GREEN!!!!! I did not know that when it comes to eggs, back then there was some sort of preservative that would turn the eggs green. The preservative is harmless (They said). So we had 115 green omelets in the plane that we couldn’t serve.

5. What is your most useful kitchen tool or appliance?

 My french press coffee maker.

6. What is your favorite Connecticut restaurant (other than your own)?

Mediterranean Bistro in East Haven. Real authentic Spanish food.

7. What is the most ordered dish @ your restaurant? Why?

Lobster Sliders. Simplicity in itself. Fresh buttered buns with sherry infused lobster roll, a citrus aioli and micro greens. Absolutely outstanding.

8. What defines an outstanding meal for you?

A meal that satisfies all your desires. Something that even when you are done, you just have to continue to eat it. What it is, it’s irrelevant, as long the ingredients and components marry perfectly.

9. Who do you like to cook for the most?

My husband. He is my best critic.

10. What is your favorite recipe for this season? Can you share it?

Sweet plantain fufu.