Chef Mike Rakun joined the Truluck's team in Ft. Lauderdale for two compelling reasons: One, he was inspired by the restaurant's commitment to serving only the freshest seafood; and two, the thought of another winter in Minnesota literally sent a shiver up his spine. From the kitchens of The St. Paul Hotel in Minnesota to his current food haven in Ft. Lauderdale, his culinary work has drawn rave reviews. Here, the Chicago native tells us about his restaurant and his life as a chef, starting with his grandmother's famous omelets (can we have some?).
I'm sure all the dishes on each of your menus are like your children, but if you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which ones are you most proud of?
I'd say my favorite dish is the Icelandic char, hands-down. It was nice bringing in that Cuban influence to the dish.
Most popular item on the menu?
I would say our stone crabs and a lot of our seafood items, actually. But the stone crabs definitely are a big draw here.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
Probably when I was about 19, I was going to college after high school, doing random jobs, testing out other career areas. I had worked in restaurants my entire high school life and really enjoyed the atmosphere, so I decided to go to culinary school and really enjoyed it.
The 5 ingredients every home kitchen should have?
Good salt and pepper, good extra virgin olive oil, lots of vinegars for balancing out dishes that are very heavy to brighten up the flavors. Especially eggs, you make a lot of things with eggs.
The 5 utensils every home kitchen should have?
A good non-stick skillet or omelet pan, food processors, a blender, a good wooden spoon, and sharp knives are a given.
Your fondest food-related memory?
It would probably be my grandmother making omelets. It was sort of like room service, I was the last kid to wake up, and she would come in with a big smile on her face asking if I wanted some. The smell of her cooking them in the morning was just fantastic, a nice smell to wake up to.
First dish you learned to make?
First thing I learned to make was pizza dough, since my first job at 13 was at a pizza place as a doughboy.
Favorite dish to make at home?
I like cooking pork shoulders a lot, especially with barbecue. It's very versatile; you can do so much with it.
Which climate do you prefer: Chicago or SoFla?
I mean, they all have their ups and downs, the heat here gets unbearable sometimes, so in the summer I'm wishing I was up there, and in the winter I'm glad I'm down here, and vice versa.
Do you have a favorite type of cuisine?
Definitely Mexican cuisine, and South-American cuisines in general. I could eat it every day. I love the spicy foods, too.