Enosh Kelly, 38, got his start in the restaurant biz washing dishes while in high school. He moved on to the cooking line, eventually attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. There he fell in love with French cuisine, inspiring Bistro Montage, which he opened in 2000 along Ingersoll Avenue.
"I like to cook the classics, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel," Kelly said. "French food has been developed over the years - it has many classic dishes that are proven. I just do the classics and try to do them well."
Kelly and other local chefs are preparing courses for the Winefest Gala Auction Saturday at Hy-Vee Conference Center. His course is dessert, a black forest cake.
Home kitchen: Kelly keeps a well-stocked kitchen with a dual-oven gas stove and a nice fridge. "It's pretty modern."
Favorite menu item: "People always ask me that, and by the time I'm done I've usually listed the whole menu. I recommend the tuna nicoise salad a lot for an appetizer."
Tools of the trade: A KitchenAid mixer, pasta roller, confection oven and more. "I love collecting utensils. I don't need everything, but the more equipment you have the more versatile you can be."
French cooking key: "Simmer, simmer, simmer, reduce, reduce, reduce. I just use solid cooking fundamentals and fresh local ingredients."
Don't be squeamish: French food includes items like escargot (snails) and calf's brain, but don't be scared to take a bite. "I have a lot of success describing the texture and flavor of something. Escargot and brains don't have a strong flavor; it's more of a texture appeal. What everyone likes about escargot is the sauce. I told my wife and a friend once they were mushrooms and they ate them up no problem. Things like sweetbreads and snails were things you would see on menus 40 years ago. Foods rich people ate. They're things you expect to see at any French restaurant."
Picking a wine: Kelly recommends talking with a knowledgeable server or wine steward if you aren't sure. "People get confused by the labeling. American wines are easy. In France you have to know the region. But they're growing the same grapes over there. The soil and climate just make them taste quite a bit different."