Top Chef: Evan Curry, The Porter

Evan Curry, 29, and grew up in Jackson, where he lived for 18 years. He then moved to Starkville, where he met his wife - Emily Curry - and graduated from Mississippi State University (Hail State). He likes long walks on the beach, Simon Pegg movies, and filling out professional questionnaires like they are meant for a dating website.



What’s one ingredient that you can't live without ?
Kosher Salt. It is the absolute only type of salt I want anything to do with. Sea Salt? No thanks. Rock salt? Only if I’m making ice cream, I guess. You wanna come at me with a tin of Morton’s? You’re fired. Give me Kosher or give me death.


What’s your favorite type of music to listen to when cooking?
My friends call it sad white boy music, but really it’s a lot of 90s and 00s indie rock. Pavement, Beulah, Built to Spill, Okkervil River - these types of bands. Oh, and OJ da Juiceman.


If you could cook for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’ve always wanted to cook for Chef Gordon Ramsay. It’s kind of a dream of mine for him to yell at me. I don’t know what that’s about.


What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
I could eat Thai food every single day. I’ve had it all over the country, but absolutely the best I have ever had has been right here in Hattiesburg. I know I should probably be talking up the restaurant that I run, but Jutama’s is seriously amazing. Go try it, then come have a beer at the Porter.


What’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a diner?
A guy asked me one time if we had vegan ketchup. It was surprising to me, because to my knowledge ketchup is just tomato, vinegar, and sugar. Apparently, however, there is a way to use even less animal products in it. Who knew?


What’s the best part about being a chef?
The look on a person’s face when they take that first bite of a dish they love. Knowing you prepared something that can make someone have that look is a stellar feeling.


What’s the most challenging part of being a chef?
The few minutes between your hours of preparation and the customer’s first bite. All that anticipation is tough. Will they like it? Will they love it? Will they want some more of it? So much rides on that first bite, and the build up can be torture.


If  not a chef in the Pine Belt, what city would you like to work in?
I ate dinner in a small town in South Dakota one time, and everything I ate tasted like newspaper soaked in seawater. I want to cook there so I can show people what food can be.


Who is/was your food mentor?
A man named Joe Tkach. He was my boss at a bagel shop in Starkville, and he was one helluva business man. He taught me more than he probably realizes, and he means more to me than I could ever show.


What’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” food?
Sometimes I’ll sit down and eat an entire box of cereal one bowl at a time. That’s all I’d like to say about that.


What’s your favorite food to cook?
Steak. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to nail down the perfect steak, and I get closer every day. Will i ever achieve perfection? No telling. But I love trying, and I will never stop.


Sweet or savory?


Mild or spicy?


Wine or beer?
Beer. There’s this great brewery here in Hattiesburg. Every beer they produce is amazing. I can’t remember the name of it. I know this one lady that works there and she’s pretty nice to me.


Salt or pepper?


Red beans or gumbo?
Gumbo. More specifically, my mother-in-law’s gumbo. She is the best cook I know, and her gumbo ranks above every other gumbo I have ever had. Seriously, I have some in my freezer. You want some? You can have some. I mean…a little. Actually, forget I said anything. There’s only enough for me.