story by Diana Schwaeble
photos by Sherry Ruczynski
There can be art in something as simple as a daily meal. Executive Chef Doug Gough is passionate about creating a perfect plate of food. There should be a balance of flavors and textures and above all it should look as good as it tastes. He’s been feeding Hobokenites for a decade at the Brass Rail, and more recently at the Stewed Cow. While he doesn’t have much free time, it shouldn’t be surprising that on a night off he appreciates dining out. Recently, he took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the restaurant business.
DS: When did you first decide you wanted to be a chef?
DG: When I first got out of college. I was working at a restaurant and I thought that I should be doing this.
DS: Did you have any early influences growing up?
DG: No, it’s not like my mom was a tremendous cook. I think that is something you feel from way deep inside you. You have a passion for it.
DS: What are your signature dishes?
DG: The skirt steak and the salmon. Those are dishes that we keep on the menu all year round. Those are the ones that customers will complain about if you change them.
DS: What is your favorite food?
DG: Probably fish more than steak. There is more you can do with fish, plus it’s healthier for you.
DS: What do you like best about Hoboken?
DG: I do like that it is competitive. There is a selection of restaurants that foodies can go to. Which is why I think we are as busy as we are.
DS: What do you do on a day off?
DG: As little as possible! I’ll spend time with my family. Maybe go out to dinner so someone can cook for me for a change.
DS: I’ve noticed that you sometimes bring out food to guests.
DG: Here especially because I know a lot of the people I am cooking for. I tell them that the food tastes a little better when the chef brings it out!
DS: Do you have any rituals when you finish for the night?
DG: Let off some steam and have a beer after work. After everything is done you unwind and get up and do it all again the next day.
DS: Do you have any advice for someone at the Culinary Institute looking to be a chef?
DG: Don’t do it! (Laughs) You have to be prepared to work holidays and weekends. It’s not for everyone.
DS: Is there a moment when you have 40 covers to do for dinner and you feel at peace with chaos?
DG: I have that. Being in control all the time is the key.