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Short ribs and baby octopus may dominate many menus in the city, but that doesn’t mean local chefs can’t find love in an acorn squash. In our ongoing series, Chefs Veg Out, we’ll prove D.C.’s chefs can play with more than just meat.

  • Name: Chris Nye
  • Title: Executive Chef
  • Restaurant: Pizzeria Orso
  • Twitter: @PizzeriaOrso (no tweets yet)
  • Cooking Since: 2004. I went to school for industrial design and dropped out. I met my wife [and] she helped me decide I wanted to go to culinary school.
  • Random Fact: When I was a kid I used to be into street art. I have a huge artistic side that’s very much involved in the reason why I’m a chef, not to be cliché. I was into mural art work, New York-style lettering, not vandalism (photos from his “crew”). I’m still involved in the culture through friends and I still meet crew members around the country. I worked with kids back in Minneapolis to get them into arts and get them off the street. (Q. What was your street name? A. I can’t divulge that.)
  • Favorite Vegetable: Tomato. It’s not really a vegetable, but most people associate it with vegetables. I like it in a simple pasta with quickly cooked cherry tomatoes and a lot of olive oil.
  • Least Favorite Vegetable: Rutabaga. I think it’s bland and not very versatile. It’s a winter vegetable and it’s not starchy so it doesn’t have a lot of applications. It’s like a bad turnip.
  • Memorable Meatless Dish: In Queens: SriPraPhai Thai restaurant. They do this Crispy Chinese watercress salad with tempura fried watercress with Thai basil, mint, citrus, tofu, oyster mushrooms and peanuts. It’s super refreshing, super light, herby, citrusy and also has an earthy flavor.
  • Best Vegetable Dish at Orso: Molla, which means spring in Italian. We bake a whole ramp raw with provola, garlic, ricotta, Italian sea salt and cook the egg in the middle of the pizza. The yolk is runny but the white is cooked.
  • Quick and Dirty Meatless Idea: My favorite thing is vegetable ragu with whatever is in season. Right now it would be asparagus, fava beans, spring garlic and mustard greens. Sauté everything with olive oil, cooking it quickly and serve with polenta. It’s simple but refreshing and clean.

Photo Courtesy of Pizzeria Orso