Chef Q&A: Travis Chasteen, The Chef & I

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Travis Chasteen is the Sous Chef at The Chef & I Orlando, the newest outpost of the Nashville-based culinary concepts from the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Erica Rains. Located at The Hall on the Yard, the “gourmet meets rock and roll” menu features small plates such as caramelized cauliflower with local goat cheese and brunch specialties including a local pork sausage and pimento cheese Benedict. Entrées range from jumbo scallops with spiced heirloom carrots, toasted couscous, bacon jam and coconut carrot curry sauce to a brisket-and-short-rib patty melt.

An Interview with Travis Chasteen

If you could travel anywhere in the world to eat for one week, where would it be?

I would love to travel to Italy and spend the week eating my way through the beautiful country. I love Italian food and have worked in a few Italian kitchens, but we have Americanized so much of their cuisine here. It would be wonderful to experience it proper, right from the source and immersed in the culture.

What’s your favorite local restaurant?

In no particular order: Tori Tori, Se7en Bites and Chicken Fire.

Who had the biggest influence on the way you cook, and why?

Growing up my grandmother and mother were my biggest influences in cooking. They helped build a love for food and taught me about the comfort a good meal brings in every situation. From family meals to helping with my mother’s catering company, I couldn’t spend enough time in the kitchen. More recently, my mentor, Chef Hash, has helped me really find my culinary voice and define the type of chef I want to be and the food I want to make.

What’s something you always wished you could prepare, and why?

Sushi. I have zero experience with sushi but love to eat it. Sushi chefs are always focused and work so meticulously that I think it would be a fun challenge to learn and prepare correctly.

What’s your most guilty junk food pleasure?

For savory, I’m a big Wendy’s guy. My go-to is the spicy chicken sandwich and a bacon double stack. I’ve eaten way to many after a long night of service. For sweets, ice cream and danishes! Kelly’s Ice Cream has some of my favorite ice cream here in Orlando, and I will never turn down a berry and cheese danish.

His Go-To Meal and Grocery Must-Haves

What’s your go-to meal at home?

I’m a simple man with an air fryer, so my lazy go-to meal is chicken tenders and seasoned fries. I love my dipping sauces. There is a constant rotating stock in my refrigerator at all times. As a chef, we spend so much time preparing extravagant meals for others that we just want simple and easy when it comes to our personal lives.

What was your favorite lunch as a kid?

As a kid, I would get most excited for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Let’s be honest: Even as an adult, I still get excited about them. There is just something so magical about such a simple sandwich that invokes so many memories.

What 3 things are in your fridge at all times?

Bacon, sambal oblek, and strawberry jam.

What advice would you share with chefs just beginning their careers?

Always carry a notebook and write everything down. You learn so much in this industry from your peers and mentors. It’s nice to be able to look back on little notes and recipes as you go. Also, be receptive to criticism. It’s what helps you get better as a chef.

For more Chef Q&A’s, visit our archives.

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