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Interview with Zebra chef Jim Alexander 

In 1979, Jim Alexander had tried his hand at a few different careers, including metallurgy and carpentry, and not been able to find his niche with any of them. It was then that he came across an article for The Culinary Institute of America, and the rest is history.

He now owns and is the executive chef of Zebra, an award-winning restaurant in South Park that focuses on French contemporary cuisine.

Creative Loafing: In 1996, you were a member of the U.S. Culinary Olympics Team. Tell me about that experience.

I was chosen to represent the Southeast United States after a series of tryouts. They say you get 10 years of practical experience in the three years you spend on the team. It taught me a lot about food presentation and adherence to classical technique and methodology. At that level of competition you can't fake it, you really have to execute on the fundamentals of cooking.

What venture are you most proud of that has blossomed from your business?

Our work with Hospice & Palliative Care. Every year in January we participate in Soup on Sunday, in which 50 restaurants from around Charlotte provide their signature soups to be served at CPCC. The money raised with this benefits the local Hospice & Palliative Care. We've had a positive experience with them in our family, and we help them whenever we can.

What sort of nonculinary hobbies do you enjoy when you get some time away from the restaurant?

I'd like to tell you I'm really a professional trout fisherman and I just do this restaurant stuff on the side, but that's not the case. I am very much into fishing, though. North Carolina is great because it's blessed with 300 state-supported streams and 700 others that aren't even listed. I go out fishing about three to four times a year but I'd like to go more. I did get out to Baja this summer and was able to see a 300-pound sunfish that was bigger than the boat I was in. That was a cool experience.

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