Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekly Dig: Paul O'Connell of Chez Henri defends himself

This was my first foray into the "Defend Yourself" feature at the Dig (affectionately called the "Def Yo" by staffers). The premise: you ask someone important a few ridiculous questions, and ideally they hand you some ridiculous answers.

This was tough for me, as like Joan Didion, I would say I am "neurotically inarticulate" when it comes to interviewing. My rambling, friendly conversational style doesn't lend itself well to direct transcription. I like to get to know a person, like to find something in common, and then move in with my questions, which are usually vague and basic. I do my fair share of ribbing, but it doesn't all come together coherently in a neat, entertaining way. I don't tend to cover a variety of topics, or ask questions that are designed more for the reader's edification than for my own curiosity. I generally just say whatever I have to say to facilitate the continued rambling of my subject, then get out of the way. Put another way, I allow the line out as far as it needs to go in the stream of conversation, and eventually it snags on something interesting, and I capture it. But sometimes it can take a long while.

So a 250-word interview where I'm required to interrogate and ridicule my subject in 5 questions or less is quite a challenge. But Paul O., the chef at Chez Henri, performed admirably. He was in a good mood for this kind of interview -- that is to say, slightly combative and cranky -- and said several funny, candid things.

One of my favorite parts of this interview was actually cut out. We got on to the subject of rugby early on, and later he mentioned that he was meeting a few female chef friends for dinner later in the evening (I won't mention their names, but they're famous in certain circles). I asked him if they were going to play rugby, and if so, would he let them win?

"I'd let them tackle me, all three at once," he said, and I could almost see him grinning. "And I'd enjoy every minute of it."


Blogger Joe, Amber and Ken said...

Cool, I didn't realized you have a blog. You talk about much deeper stuff that we do. (I guess it's not too hard to beat discussions of ear infections and baby milestones!) I didn't ignore your email, I am just very slow to respond :D.

9:42 PM  

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