Chef’s Interviews

Chef Marc Forgione

by Mari on September 17, 2014

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Marc Forgione joined his culinary legend father Larry Forgione in the industry at the young age of 16. When asked why he decided to immerse himself in the culinary industry he explains, “Most kids don’t want to do what dad did when they grow up. I wanted to do something different and I tried to do many different things, but I always came back to cooking.” Since the beginning of his culinary journey, he has built on the foundation of his father’s teachings to discover his own identity as a chef and was honored with being the youngest American born chef owener to receive a Michelin star for three consecutive years.

What made you want to be a chef?
I learned how to cook at a very young age and it just came natural to me. One day when I was cooking dinner for a bunch of my friends at home, and I realized cooking was making me happy. It was like a light went off. Well, if this is what makes me happy and people enjoy what I cook, this may be it. But then to actually say “I want to be a chef” and make my own restaurant… I had another “light went off” moment in France. I worked with Michel Guérard at a 3 star Michelin restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I had a lot of alone time, because I didn’t speak French when I first got there. Just seeing the products, the way they do things, and with all of the alone time I had, I just sat and wrote in a book the whole time. That was when I really started to form my ideas for this restaurant.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
I have had a lot of mentors, I had a unique training. I worked with many different chefs with many different styles. I had my father who was American, Patricia Yeo who was Chinese, Chef Kazuo who was Japanese, Petter Maffei who was Italian, Michel Guerard and Laron Torde who were both French… they all inspired me in different ways and with different things. It is why I cook the way I do now, which is what I like to call “New York cuisine” since it has a little influence from everybody.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
Going back to my influences and global influences, it is the same when I travel. I love tasting different foods from different places. One of my signature dishes here, the chili lobster, is from one of my travels to Singapore and tasting the chili crab. Whenever I travel I take little bits and pieces of the country with me.

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I think the recent popularity of Japanese food is because food is coming to a full circle where people are going back to real, pure and clean ingredients. To me Japanese cuisine is simple things done in a very simple way, but with the utmost care. I think that is why it has become so popular. Japanese knives are made the same way– with a respect for simplicity.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knife?
I would go into Korin. They let you take the knives out and hold them to really get a feel for them. Talk to the people there and get some advice, let them know what you’re going to be doing with the knife, then go from there. Understand that it’s a different style of knife, so you have to get all of the information you possibly can.

What is your goal for your profession?
To continue to feed people to the best of my ability. To evolve, stay humble, and have fun.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Be patient. There is so much instant gratification nowadays and wanting to take over the world as fast as you can, but be humble and listen to what people are telling you. Understand that it is okay to work before you get to where you want to be.

What is your philosophy towards hospitality?
Hospitality should be fun and thoughtful. Treat customers like family, but understand that people are coming out to have a good time. Relax, have fun, and make sure every little thing is taken care of for them.

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Chef Atsushi Kono

by Mari on September 10, 2014

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Atsushi Kono is the executive chef of Torishin restaurant in New York. Torishin specializes in a Japanese grilling style called yakitori, and is the second yakitori restaurant in the United States to earn a coveted Michelin Star. Kono has been active collaborator for a Japanese non-profit organization’s educational programs and fund raising events as a chef advisory committee member. He has an unyielding determination to stay true to the nature of the cuisine and to promote the most authentic Tokyo style yakitori experience with the highest quality ingredients.

What made you want to be a chef?
My parents were owners of a fish store and restaurant. I had the intentions of taking over the store.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
To draw out all of the natural flavors of the ingredient and make sure that they don’t clash.

What has been your experience cooking in a foreign country?
The most important point is understanding the customers and the needs of the city. Its not good to disregard the flavors that are preferred in that city and push the taste of Japan. Granted there was a time when I wanted to display real Japanese food and I believed that communicating the authenticity was my job.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
It’s a very strict industry, but instead of being intimidated and scared away, I would want them to think about why it’s such a tough industry. It’s a very important job, where you are entrusted someone’s life style. If something happens after eating your fish, then you’ve affected that person’s life. It’s a job with those kinds of responsibilities, so it will be a difficult one. But by learning, understanding, working hard, and persevering, there will be a greater happiness waiting for you.

What is your goal for your career?
As chef I want to satisfy my guests. I want to communicate with people around the world through my dishes and make them feel blissful.

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Chef Nils Noren

by Mari on September 3, 2014

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Nils Noren is both a world renowned chef and culinary educator. After graduating from culinary school in his hometown of Gävle, Sweden, he spent many years working at some of the most esteemed restaurants in Stockholm before moving to Aquavit in New York. In 2006, he was appointed Vice President of Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts at The French Culinary Institute. Since leaving this position in 2011, he serves as a contributing authority for Food Arts Magazine, sits on the Board of Directors for Gohan Society, and makes guest Press and TV appearances ranging from Top Chef Masters to the New York Times. He currently works as the Vice President of Restaurant Operations for the Marcus Samuelsson Group, a New York City-based hospitality management and food media company.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
I can’t say that there is, because I have been fortunate to work with so many great people throughout the years. For me, it’s not just the mentor or chefs that inspire me, I have many cooks that came in to work and have inspired me just as much as any chef. It’s just being a part of the industry – there are so many passionate people.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
It has been instrumental to my career and it has really helped me develop. When you travel you cook outside of your comfort zone. You use different products, speak a different language, and get used to a different culture. It forces you to learn so much in such a short period of time.

My first time really cooking for a long period of time outside of Sweden was in China, to help open a restaurant there. I was thrown into a kitchen with five Chinese gentlemen who didn’t speak a single word of English, and I didn’t speak any Chinese. We couldn’t communicate, but I still had to teach them how to do certain things. They would also teach me things about Chinese cooking and ingredients, so that was very interesting. Coming to New York has taught me a lot, because there are so many cultures within New York. Now I think I have travelled and cooked on every continent in the world other than Antarctica, so I guess that’s next on my list.

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food?
I think it’s for a reason. What fascinates me is the appreciation and craftsmanship of food within the Japanese culture- the raw ingredients and how they are transformed into the finished product. From a flavorist standpoint and for health reasons Japanese cuisine is fantastic.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
As a chef you always need new ways of being inspired. You need to always have that drive to create more things and to better yourself in everything you do. One of the stranger things that inspires me is architecture. This might sound weird, but I like shapes. Sometimes I can start with the shapes rather than with the flavors of the dish, and then based on the idea of the shape I can put in flavors that would work with it. I don’t always do this, sometimes it’s a little backwards.

What do you like about Japanese knives?
If you look at the craftsmanship that goes into it, you can feel it when you use it. For me, Japanese knives have always fit better because they have a better balance and tend to be a little lighter than Western knives. I got my first Japanese knife about twenty years ago in Sweden, and I’ve used mostly Japanese knives ever since. Now my favorite is the Suisin Wa-gyutou, I take it everywhere with me. When I travel I only take that knife and a whetstone. Everyone who uses my Suisin Wa-gyutou always ask me to bring them back one because it’s such a great knife.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
If you want to buy your first Japanese knife, I would go with something that’s not too expensive. I really like the Korin line, because I think it is a great beginner knife and it is a great value. You are not just buying your first Japanese knife and learning how to use it, you also need to teach yourself how to sharpen that knife on a Japanese whetstone. I don’t know how much you want to learn with a $500 knife. You can always upgrade once you understand.

What is your goal in your profession?
My goal is to get better and better at what I do, and to teach young professionals in the industry.

Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs?
Immerse yourself in cooking as much as you can, because there are no shortcuts. You have to study basic technique, but also study other cuisines because that is the only way you are ever going to learn… And of course, work hard!

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Chef Danny Bowien

August 27, 2014

Danny Bowien began his career with a brief stint at culinary school in San Francisco, but remained torn between cooking and music until he discovered the art of slicing fish. The young Bowien negotiated a deal with Mike Selvera of Bar Crudo, slicing fish for free in the mornings before working night shifts at Slow [...]

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Chef Dale Talde

August 20, 2014

Dale Talde’s love of being around food and food culture developed thanks to his large Filipino family, who frequently had dinner parties and gatherings where everyone would bring a dish to share. Today, he is the executive chef of Talde and Pork Slope in Brooklyn, and a two-time contestant on Bravo’s Emmy Award-winning culinary show, [...]

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Chef Jet Tila

August 13, 2014

Jet Tila was born into a restaurant family, with his parents opening some of the first Thai restaurants in Los Angeles. In his twenties, Tila attended Le Cordon Bleu to build a foundation of French technique to complement his background in Asian cooking. The combination has proved explosive – Tila has become a much desired [...]

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Chef Chika Tillman

August 6, 2014

  Chika Tillman was born in Tokyo and trained at the French Culinary Institute. She has assisted as opening staff at Gramercy Tavern, Danny Meyer, the Ritz-Carlton, and Seeger’s. In 2003 she opened ChikaLicious Dessert Bar with her husband, Don Tillman. Her delicate Japanese sensibilities and emphasis on the purity of ingredients quickly won her [...]

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Chef Armando Monterroso

July 30, 2014

Armando Monterroso is the executive chef of Gaylord Hotel in Opryland Tennessee. His first taste of the New York restaurant experience began over 10 years ago, when he worked under top New York City chefs, including Laurent Gras, Marcus Samuelsson, and Rocco DiSpirito. What made you want to be a chef? It’s funny, I always [...]

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Chef Carlo Mirarchi

July 23, 2014

Carlo Mirarchi is the co-owner and executive chef of Blanca and Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Mirarchi is a self-taught chef and his culinary prowess has won the acclaim of publications including New York Times and Bon Appétit, as well as earning him a Michelin Star and a place as one of Food & Wine’s Best [...]

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Chef Dan Kluger

July 14, 2014

Dan Kluger is the Executive Chef of ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina in New York. He majored in Nutrition and Hospitality Management at Syracuse University, spending his externship in the dining room of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe where he developed a passion for seasonal cooking. In 1999 he became part of the opening team [...]

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