Interview: Chef James Lintelmann of Chicago's Baptiste & Bottle

'I feel like I have finally found my voice with cooking'

James Lintelmann is the executive chef of Baptiste & Bottle and rooftop restaurant Noyane, at the Conrad Chicago. The 30-year-old is enthusiastic about the kitchen and the food at both the hotel's 20th-floor whiskey bar with a regional American menu and its contemporary Japanese restaurant with sweeping city views.

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?

James Lintelmann: My mother was a terrible cook. She was a single mother of 5 and worked nights. I grew up watching Sarah Moulton, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse. She was always great about having food at the table and all of us eating together, this is what got me interested in cooking.

Do you have a specialty dish?

I don’t really have a specialty dish. I really enjoy making raw fish preparations and making pasta from scratch so I usually have a crudo and a housemade pasta dish on my menus.

Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?

Technically, I am French trained so I use a lot of French techniques when cooking. However, I like to take inspiration from around the world to add my spin to classic dishes.

What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?

I try to inspire the team. The stigma of a restaurant kitchen as a harsh environment is no longer acceptable and I feel that it is my responsibility (as well as the teams) to change the culture for the next generation.

What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?

Humbleness and a great attitude. We can do anything with those attributes.

What is your favorite spice? Why?

That is a tough one, I cook very seasonally. I would say in winter months I like spices like cardamom, star anise, and Cassia. They are warming and comforting.

What keeps you in cooking?

I feel like I have finally found my voice with cooking, it has taken me a long time to get comfortable with my own ideas and have the confidence to show a team and our guests what I’ve learned.

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