There are a lot of Asian influences in your dishes; why? "To be a good chef it's important to understand what you like to eat, and what you like to eat is also the things you like to cook. I love Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines; I love the herbaceousness, the clean, subtle flavours. On my days off I eat in those restaurants, so it transcends into my food and the way I cook."
When the documentary For Grace changed direction, from centring on your restaurant to being more about your troubled childhood and the tragic deaths of your parents in 1994 (when Duffy was aged 19 his father shot dead Duffy's mother, then killed himself), were you comfortable with that? "Yeah, absolutely. Originally, when [I was] approached, it was about documenting the process of building this restaurant. And then it just changed into my lifestyle, my background, why I am a chef. We never anticipated it being a full-length documentary movie. It was to be 15 to 20 minutes long, but then it just blew up into this massive thing. I was comfortable with the things that happened in my life. Not a lot of people knew my story. I wasn't open about it so it just happened to unfold that way."
How has For Grace been received? "The biggest shock was the amount of support we got from local and international teachers, who reached out to us after seeing the documentary [which details Duffy's relationship with his home economics teacher and mentor, Ruth Snider]. They thanked us for sharing my story so people can see how important teachers are."
Was it Snider who got you into food? "I don't know if it was her, but I think she saw my reaction when it was time to cook food. I didn't decide to be a chef until probably in late high school. But I had already spent some time in the kitchen when I was 14, washing dishes, chopping vegetables."
What's next for you? "Working at this level, there's a huge microscope on us all the time, which is good, it drives us to push harder every day. We're working on a book and another restaurant. It will be less demanding and more guest-friendly."
What did you learn working at the late Charlie Trotter's Chicago-based Michelin two-star restaurant? "That was probably the hardest place I ever worked. It wasn't physically demanding, but mentally so. It was a place where you never felt comfortable, which at the time sucked. [Laughs.] You'd leave at the end of the night thinking the next day would be a bit easier, because you had improved, or got ahead. Then the next day someone would throw out what you prepped so you would have nothing. It was intentional for sure. There were times when I'd take 10 pounds of English peas home and shuck them on my couch because I knew that would be my job the next day so I tried to be a little ahead. I learned so much about myself and cooking."
What do you do when you're not in the kitchen? "I don't see my two daughters [nine and six years old] often, so my free time is spent with them. I pick them up and take them to school and then I go straight to the gym and spend an hour or so training in shidokan [a martial art]."
Where are some of your favourite restaurants? "I had the best meal of my life in Michel Bras, in Laguiole, southern France, in 2004. My second best meal was at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Tarrytown, New York - Dan Barber is the executive chef and owner there. Peter Gilmore, at Quay Restaurant, in Sydney, Australia, serves amazing cuisine with Asian flavours that are light and clean. In Chicago, I head to Tank Noodle that serves traditional pho."