So Sous Me

RN74 Exec Sous (and New Dad) Evan Perlick

On souffle whispering, comfort food, and what happens when your girlfriend’s your boss.

By Jessie Wesley June 21, 2012

This baby has a lot of good meals in her future. Photo by

Evan Perlick has worked for chef Michael Mina since 2004. In fact, RN74’s Seattle outpost is the third Mina-owned restaurant that he has helped open; one year later he’s still in his role as the restaurant’s executive sous chef under Seis Kamimura.

But Mina’s company has provided more than employment for Perlick—the original Michael Mina restaurant in San Fransisco is where he met his girlfriend. That would be RN74’s former exec chef (and his boss) Michelle Retallack. She hired the chef to to work with her back in the Bay Area, and after a business-related trip to Thailand—the rest was history.

So what’s it like working in a high–stress kitchen with your better half? “If you can do that, you can probably get through anything,” says Perlick. “There are definitely times when both of us had had to bite our tongues.”

In April of this year, Retallack and Perlick added a whole new layer of (welcome) responsibility to their lives: baby girl Quinn Leona Perlick (surely destined for cooking greatness). According to the proud father, his brand new daughter "has made me much more patient at work, which is probably appreciated by my fellow coworkers.”

Here, a few nonbaby-related questions for Evan Perlick.

Describe your favorite comfort food.
My favorite comfort food changes with the season, but lately it had been some sort of pasta that my girlfriend (Retallack) will have ready for me when I get home. But last night it was white beans with sausage. She soaked the beans all day and cooked them for me. It’s like getting comfort food from your mother. How often do people cook for chefs? It’s a welcome treat.

What dish were you the most proud of finally mastering?
Mastering is probably the wrong word, but making souffles is always a triumph or a tragedy scenario. There are numerous steps involved in the mussel souffle we serve at RN74, starting with picking 30 to 40 pounds of mussels, preparing the pate choux, whipping the egg whites just so, buttering and flouring the moulds before you can even put a tester in the oven. It’s a long process and one little mistake can mess up the entire process. You have to be something of a souffle whisperer – don’t let it get stuck on the rim, don’t let it fall or rise too much. It takes lots of practice and you have to do it consistently to get good at it.

If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your days which one would it be?
Urasawa – it’s this great sushi place in Los Angeles. It only seats 13 people and you have to make a reservation at least a month in advance. The chef serves 28 to 31 courses of everything from sushi to soup to custards. Very traditional Japanese cookery.

Do you have a favorite cooking show right now?
I like the travel cooking shows like The Layover with Anthony Bourdain. I like to learn about food in other cultures around the world, how and what cooks there use. I’m not a big fan of the competition shows like Top Chef or Chopped—seems like they take a lot of shortcuts to put food up on time.

What’s your favorite part about being a sous chef?
Being a leader of a team, enjoying the kitchen, and creating team chemistry with a very diverse group of people from stay-at-home moms who’ve gone back to work, kids earning money for college and some getting a second chance at life after they get clean and sober.

What is the most difficult task that you have been faced with as a sous chef?
The most difficult and rewarding task by far is opening restaurants. It’s extremely challenging, frustrating, and at the same time very fulfilling. I’ve opened three new restaurants for Michael Mina and three major renovations, but by far the greatest challenge was my first opening, Michael’s signature restaurant in San Francisco, where everything featured was in trios. Every dish on the menu was prepared in three different ways on custom plates. You walk away from that experience knowing you can do just about anything in a kitchen after that.

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