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Chef Roberto Baez, Morning Rose Cafe

Executive chef Roberto Baez at Morning Rose Cafe

Executive chef Roberto Baez at Morning Rose Cafe in Bellmore on April 6, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Roberto Baez, 30, is executive chef at Morning Rose Cafe in Bellmore. He lives in Hicksville.

What's the most surprising thing a customer has ever asked for in your restaurant?

At a beach club restaurant I ran right out of culinary school, one of the members asked for peanut butter and bacon sandwiches every day. This inspired the sandwich I now have on the menu at Morning Rose, King's Lunch -- peanut butter, fried bananas, crisp pork belly and honey on white toast.

What would people be surprised to hear that you like to eat?

White Castle cheeseburgers. Also peanut butter and strawberry preserves -- directly out of the jars, with a spoon.

Which Long Island restaurant would you take a chef friend to?

Lola in Great Neck. I've had quite a few great experiences there, I think the food is excellent and I love foie gras, which is a specialty.

What's on your kitchen playlist?

Nothing. ... We sing our own songs.

What's the new kale?

Collard greens.

What's the last great meal you had?

All-you-can-eat crab legs at Popei's in Bethpage. I love shellfish.

Electronic devices at the table: Love them, ban them, don't care?

Don't really care. ... I know people love to take pictures of food and Instagram them, so it's here to stay and we can't really fight it.

How do you dream up a dish?

I think about what I like to eat and it slowly progresses from there. Technique and presentation have a lot to do with it as well. I know the staples that I need and then go into the seasonal produce.

How do you handle staff romances?

A lot of people meet their significant other at work, but I've also seen where it destroys the flow of the restaurant. As long as it's not in everybody's face, it shouldn't be a problem.

What's your worst kitchen nightmare?

Being short staffed on a busy day just as the Department of Health inspector walks in the door.

What did your mother say about your becoming a chef?

She supported me but constantly reminded me of the sacrifices that I would have to make in living a normal life.

Who's your culinary hero?

My father was and is my culinary hero and inspiration. He was from Cuba, born and raised on a farm. He opened the door to a lot of things I would have never seen before -- not just Cuban cooking but where food comes from. He would buy live chickens and rabbits and bring them home.

What's your favorite cooking tool?

The offset serrated knife.

What's your go-to pizza place?

Spinach Alfredo pizza at Mulberry Street in Hicksville.

What makes a great customer?

Someone who appreciates quality food and realizes they may have to wait a little longer to get it. You have to understand that good food doesn't just appear.

What do you think of reality cooking shows?

I don't watch them; too much drama and not enough cooking.

What seasonal ingredients get you going?

All types of melons. I love melons -- and will try to get some melon on the menu at Morning Rose.

Other than where your restaurant is located, which town on LI has the best food?

No town has the best. ... There are gems scattered all over the Island.

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