One chef, one ingredient: Danny Bowien goes Mediterranean

If you are what you eat, then it could be said that chefs are what they cook. In an exclusive series from Relaxnews, some of the top chefs from around the world share their favorite food ingredient to prepare and eat, every week.

Whether it be lemons, apricots, or sea urchin, the answers are as varied as the chefs themselves. During a recent trip to Paris, America’s latest chef darling Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese --  which serves inventive Americanized Chinese fare -- spoke to Relaxnews in a rapid-fire Q & A about his favorite ingredient. And contrary to expectation, it’s not Szechuan peppercorns or oyster sauce. Bowien’s favorite ingredient: olive oil.

Relaxnews: Why did you choose this ingredient?Danny Bowien: Good olive oil can be used to build flavor and can be used on so many levels. To finish up simple dishes, to sear raw fish or to make aioli.

What’s your favorite memory associated with the product?While working at a French restaurant, I tasted a fish dish cooked in olive oil and it changed everything for me.

What other foods or ingredients does it pair best with?Different olive oils work for different things. For olive oil to really shine through, use it to finish a dish. It also works well with simple dishes like linguine and clams.

What are the most common mistakes people make when cooking or preparing this ingredient?Heating it up really hot. Heating it up to a smoking point changes the olive oil. Also, don’t use good olive oil for deep-frying.