I’ve run into a diverse cross-section of chefs, and Mike Perez is one of the best I’ve known. He’s more gringo than Mexican, but he’s still a great cook. He’s got the humble pan pusher work-ethic, and the passionate drive to make the best food. We’ve got an easy raport that sometimes speaks volumes in a look, the kind of in-the-trenches kind of friendship that only true kitchen lifers know. Sometimes during service, deep in humping out food, he’ll just crack a sly smile. “Ain’t nothin’ to a boss!” Sometimes, he’ll look at me like Murderface, and I’ll know what he means; you nasty, girl! As a faithful reader, our jokes got jokes, laughter comes easy. I’m proud to rank him among the top people I’ve met in this business, and as a lifelong friend. As all cooks know, you run into those people in your careers; the kind of peeps you say you’ll work with again, maybe even open up your own place, and with Chepe it’s no different. With him I can almost see it actually happening. We both were privileged to be mentored by Chef Jack Yoss, and as anyone who has worked with Jack knows, that’s something. I’ve learned a lot working with Perez, watching him cook, lead the cooks. I’ve jumped down, I’ve turned around, I’ve picked a bag of cotton. I’ve been violated. I’ve enjoyed some long services, some outlandish circumstances. We’ve even spent some time together off the clock, riding the mountain, eating and drinking. Drinking, eating, cooking, drinking. The guy loves food. I recall once I was drinking creme anglaise out of the blender. Perez walks up and laughs, then asks for a hit. You really have to respect a guy that will drink creme anglaise out of a blender. Well…I do anyway.