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Mar 20, 2018
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Ones to Watch 2014: Josh Charles and John Fausz
By Julie Cohen | Photo by Carmen Troesser
Posted On: 01/02/2014   

Josh Charles
Age: 23

John Fausz

Why Watch Them: Every day is a meeting of inquiring minds.

When Josh Charles was 16, his mother gave him a copy of Thomas Kellers French Laundry Cookbook for Christmas. The gift would irrevocably change his life. Since then, hes worked in about as many kitchens as he is years old. Yet when he stepped into the fine-dining restaurant Elaia, just over a year ago, he was willing to take a position he considered the very bottom of the line. A mere five months later, his name appeared at the bottom of Elaias menu, along with his new title of chef de cuisine.

John Fausz was only a teenager when he tasted a Jever Pilsener while traveling in Germany. Before that I think Id had all of two Bud Lights in my life when I tasted it, I just about panicked by all the flavors I was experiencing. Although beer and spirits became his passion, before coming to Olio, Fausz had no managerial experience and only a couple of years behind the stick. But he was an obsessive learner, and according to Andrey Ivanov, wine director at Olio and general manager at both Elaia and Olio, He was my first hire and the best decision Ive ever made.

Their jobs are entirely different; Fausz is formally titled Beer and Booze General and bar manager, and for Charles, its all about the food. Their work areas are separate, connected by a long hallway and stairwell. But their caffeine addiction constantly brings them together. Charles prefers the drip coffee from Olio, and Fausz will only drink the espresso from Elaia. While their particular tastes make for a lot of running up and down the stairs, its in these brief exchanges that grounds for greatness percolate.

Here, the creative forces behind Elaia and Olio share what they learn from each other.

Charles: Im not nearly as experienced with wine as the rest of the guys. They like to play a game with me. Ill walk into the room as they are all sitting there tasting, and they say Josh, taste this. One of the reasons I love being here is that they are always teaching me.

Fausz: I love it when you come behind the bar. I like getting a chefs perspective on it because he has an entirely different set of training. Its really fun to try what Im excited about on Josh. Im just like Taste this. What do you think? Is this as compelling as I think it is?

Charles: Oftentimes, when Im creating a new dish, and hes walking by, Ill be like, Hey come here, you gotta taste this. And hell tell me exactly what he thinks. From there, Ill adjust and go on.

Fausz: Hes always coming down to the bar and talking about a certain flavor profile he needs for a dish, whether it be an ingredient, or something to actually add to a dish or a pairing. We each have a nice flavor bank in our minds to draw from.

Charles: Completely opposite flavor banks is the key here.

Fausz: But complementary.

Charles: Were always trying to align it.

Fausz: Thats what makes it really, really fun.

Charles: Fausz has got a list of alcohols that Ive never even tasted that hes slowly, day by day, letting me try, to get me to just know what it is and give me the background and know why it tastes like it does.

Fausz: Taste this Tunisian fig eau-de-vie. Guess what it is.

Charles: Then Ive got ingredients that hes never tasted such as celtuce we got in from one of our farmers. Its an Asian green primarily grown for its stalk. Its something I saw out in San Francisco, and we dont have here. The second I had it, I was running down, Look! Look! Celtuce!

Fausz: The thing that gets us really excited is a cocktail dinner something that incorporates a lot of food elements into the cocktails and booze elements into the food in such a way that is really pretty adventurous.

Charles: Fausz has an obsession with vermouth. Were gonna have to do vermouth in one way or another. The idea can be anything from putting foie gras and vermouth on the same plate, maybe a terrine of it with a gele of vermouth and then maybe deconstructing the elements of vermouth.

Fausz: Theres so much to play with, especially with a lot of heirloom ingredients and Slow Food-classified ingredients from Italy, like keynote peels, things like that. Its really fun to try and tease out certain flavors. Its still in such a nebulous formation right now.

Charles: We have a lot of fine-tuning to do, but we will get there.

Fausz: We each have our notebooks we write food combos down in.

Can I see them?

Charles: No. Then youll know our secrets.
Julie Cohen

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