Stefan Kraus fell into his career by accident. "I was 17 and working as a river guide in West Virginia.
You got paid more if you cooked meals," he explains. "So I started cooking." That winter, he went to Colorado and took a kitchen job at a big resort. "I got a free ski pass! At that time in my life, I couldn't imagine anything better." Eventually, he attended the Greater Cincinnati Culinary Academy and worked for restaurateur Jeff Ruby at his Waterfront and, later, Carlo & Johnny before helping to establish aqua. "The atmosphere here is very collaborative and spontaneous," he muses. "It's like Mr. Ruby says: One of us alone is never as smart as all of us together."
CityBeat: Where did you eat your last great meal and what was it?
Stefan Kraus: I don't have a lot of free evenings, so the meals I most enjoy are our family meals at work. One of our cooks is African American, and he makes great fried fish, chicken and green beans. Another is from Guadalajara, and he makes terrific Mexican dishes. It's home cooking, comfort food from all over the world. Simple and flavorful.
CB: Who's your culinary hero?
SK: Jean-Robert (de Cavel). I worked with him at the Maisonette. He taught me so much about cooking, about being a good manager -- even about being a good person. He was such a pleasure to work for and with. I was really lucky to be part of it.
Aqua, 1020 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-919-2782