Chef’s Interviews

Chef Carlo Mirarchi

by Mari on July 21, 2014

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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 New Chefs of 2011. Bon Appétit has recognized Roberta’s as sixth on the list of “20 Most Important Restaurants in America.”

What made you want to be a chef?
It was the only thing I was really passionate about. I was cooking from a pretty early age, throughout high school and college. At a certain point I was at a crossroad where I had to decide whether I was going to pursue what I was passionate about for the rest of my life, or if I was going to try some other things. At that time it was very difficult to make money as a cook and I was still trying to pay for school. It was very challenging, but ultimately I decided that I was going to do this for the rest of my life or die trying.

Do you have a mentor or a chef who particularly inspired you?
David Kinch has been a major influence and a mentor figure for me. He has been someone I could talk to and look up to not only about food, but to help me develop as a chef and employer of a large staff. He has been a huge factor in helping me get to where I am now.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
It is one of the important experiences that you could have. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel when I was young, because both of my parents are immigrants. We would go back to see our families in Panama and Italy. It has been a tremendous influence not only on my palate, since I was always tasting different things, but as a person too. You become more open, accepting, and understanding of different cultures, approaches to life, experiences of food, and restaurant hospitality. It has been the most crucial things to my developing as a chef.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
The first thing is to have a vision of what cuisine means to you. Try to stay true and focused on that. To me its very important that when you go into a restaurant that it is not food or hospitality by committee where they are checking things off a box of what they should do. It has to feel like it came from an individual or a small group of individuals that are truly trying to create an experience for their guests. You can create different experiences in different restaurants, but you have to feel that for better or worse this is one person’s idea of hospitality.

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I feel that chefs like Toshio Suzuki really set the groundwork in New York over 30 years ago. It is interesting to see how this has trickled down into the contemporary restaurant kitchen. Konbu, Katsuobushi, Sake; these are basic kitchen staples in many restaurants today. Japanese knives and whetstones are also prevalent. Techniques, particularly those involving the care of and, butchering of fish, are rooted in a Japanese style in many restaurants regardless of the chefs background.

What do your knives mean to you?
I don’t collect knives, but I have a lot of knives that I use. It is important to me to give knives to people. All of my sous chefs whether they are coming, leaving, or have a birthday have a knife from me. It is very important for me to share my experiences with a gift of a knife that they will hopefully keep and maintain for the rest of their career.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
Buy a carbon steel knife. It will achieve a finer edge. While it is definitely a commitment to care for, it is going to make you cleaner, more efficient, and more organized. The idea that this is a knife that you can’t just leave wet on a cutting board is going to make you more conscious of what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

What is your goal for your profession?
I look at my goal as each individual service. Every service is a new day. It is really important to wake up every day and look at the service as a new opportunity to do better than before. As crucial as it is to maintain a vision and plan for the future, you’re only as good as your last service. It doesn’t matter what you did on Friday if you had a mediocre day on Sunday.

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Chef Dan Kluger

by Mari on July 14, 2014

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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 of Tabla Restaurant, and he later became Tabla’s first Chef de Cuisine. He was then hired by Tom Colicchio as an Executive Chef for The Core Club, and has since helped open restaurants in Arizona, Utah, DC, and New York.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
It’s about finding something that excites me. ABC Kitchen is a block away from the farmer’s market, and I love spending all week at the farmer’s market. Just that tactile approach to touching something and thinking about maybe a peach and what you’re going to do with it, then walking over to another booth and finding something else. Next thing you know, there is a dish that comes out of it. That really inspires me. Also the research– whether it be eating out, reading something, seeing a recipe on a blog, and anything that might create a spark that makes you want to do something with it in your own voice.

What do your knives mean to you?
It’s like getting behind the wheels of a sports car and thinking you can drive really fast, when you really can’t or shouldn’t. When I get an amazing knife from Japan, I feel like I could be a sushi chef but I can’t and I shouldn’t be. I love the feel of them, they’re light. My favorite is the Masanobu. I love the handle and the weight of it. They keep an edge well and are easy to sharpen. The knife is a major part of what we do, and I find that the Masanobu knives are the most comfortable knives to use. But there’s a level of respect that should go into your knives. It’s great to have a car to get from A to B, but if you don’t treat that car properly it’s not going to take you from A to B. I try to instill that mentality to my cooks. Nothing upsets me more than when I see a dirty knife on a cutting board or on their tray of tools- they are not receiving proper care. To some respect, what we do is very sacred. If we are going to prepare your food, it has to be with the proper tools.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
This isn’t a field that you can just jump into and do half heartedly. If it’s something you want to do, whether you go to school or not, you have to really give 110%. There is no immediate claim to fame, and there are very rare instances of instant gratification. You’re going to cook away, and not necessarily get the feedback that the customer enjoyed something. Your gratification has to come internally from being excited about what you’re doing. The money is not great, the hours are not great, schedules are not great, but it’s one of few fields where you can be excited about what you did all day long and realize that there is a skill behind it the whole time. There are a lot of people who end up cooking as a second career, because they all of a sudden found this new passion, and I think that’s amazing. We all need to eat, food is everywhere, the culture of food is everywhere. But again, it’s important to do your own research, realize what it entails, and think if you want to give 110% each day. With the popularity of chefs and TV shows, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the idea that you’re going to work somewhere for 6 months and become the next chef on TV. That’s not the reality. It’s a matter of paying your dues.

How did you find out about Korin?
In 1997 when I first started cooking, before you guys were open to the public. I was one of those guys that picked up every cookbook I could find, every equipment catalogue I could get my hands on, and I mean, I don’t know what joy I found in looking at a catalogue with cake pans in it, but for some reason it was important, and it was the same with knives. I’m sure I found it in some magazine, or one of the guys in the kitchen said “oh you gotta go down to this place,’ and it was before you guys renovated. Whenever I got some Christmas money, I would go out and buy a Christmas present for myself. Then every promotion when I got my gift for myself I would buy a new knife, which is how I ended up with so many knives and each time I moved up a little bit. All of these are nice, but to pick up a knife and get to work, the Masanobu knife is the one I’ll always go to. I’m lucky that my wife gave it to me one time.

What is your philosophy towards hospitality?
Hospitality is this overall picture of the dining experience. All the way from when you make the reservation to the end. We like to keep it simple and casual, but we want our customers to feel respected and this reciprocal excitement about what we’re doing. People wait for a month to come and eat at ABC kitchen, we need to make sure we live up to those expectations. It can’t just be that the food was great or the service was great, it really has to be the whole picture. For me, I try to look at the whole picture from wherever I am, whether it be in the kitchen or out on the floor, and figure out how I can be a part of the whole picture. How can I make sure that your experience from start to finish is what we think it should be and what we want it to be.

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Chef April Bloomfield

by Mari on July 9, 2014

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April Bloomfield began her culinary studies in Birmingham College from which point she began to hone her skills by working in various kitchens throughout London and Northern Ireland. In 2004, she became the co-owner of New York’s very first gastropub, the Spotted Pig, which has earned one star from the Michelin Guide for six consecutive years. Since the Spotted Pig, she has opened April & Ken’s The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, The John Dory Oyster Bar, and has published her first cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig, all of which has received acknowledgement from top magazines, the Michelin Guide, and newspapers.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
Anything can inspire me– a dish that I’ve eaten out, an ingredient I’ve discovered in my travels or at the market, someone I am talking to, or a chef I have met.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
The most important part of cooking to me is the pursuit of balance and consistency. Repetitiveness is also important because it teaches you how to cook and allows you to learn more about the food. In the simplest terms, I love cooking delicious food with respect.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
I think cooking abroad is a great experience because it is interesting to have the challenge of being somewhere new. Traveling and cooking in foreign territory keeps you on your toes and expands your knowledge, which allows you to grow as a person as well as a chef.

What do your knives mean to you?
My knives reflect how much I care about what I do and show that I am a professional. Keeping them sharp allows me to do my job more safely, efficiently, and beautifully.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
I would recommend first time buyers to do their research and go somewhere, like Korin, where you can talk to the people who work there and touch them, pick them up, etc. Figuring out your price range and how much time you are willing to spend taking care of them is also important, as knives require a lot of care. The knives I use are easy to clean, don’t chip easily, and are easy to sharpen.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Work hard, keep your head down, have integrity, and act as a sponge absorbing everything that you can.

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Chef Ben Pollinger

June 30, 2014

Ben Pollinger leads New York City’s Oceana as the executive chef with his brilliant direction and extensive knowledge. His unique style of cooking that beautifully blends the freshest seafood with the highest quality ingredients has received outstanding reviews by acclaimed critics and has maintained the restaurant’s Michelin star since 2006. In addition to being the [...]

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Chef Isao Yamada

June 23, 2014

Isao Yamada’s decision to pursue culinary arts was inspired by his encounter with the philosophy of kaiseki cuisine. He attended Tsuji Cooking Academy in Osaka, then returned to his hometown of Fukuoka to open his own restaurant, Kaiseki Hanaei, at the age of twenty five. He soon met Chef David Bouley, who encouraged him to [...]

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Chef Eddy Leroux – Daniel, New York

June 5, 2014

Eddy Leroux was born in Douai, France, where he began to exchange lunchboxes with his classmates, and drawing inspiration from the various culinary traditions of his friends at a young age. His formal culinary training began at the age of 14, and by 23 he was working under chef Alain Senderens at the Michelin 3-star [...]

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Chef Michael Anthony – Gramercy Tavern, NY

May 21, 2014

Michael Anthony moved to Tokyo after graduating from college to solidify his language skills, and soon was drawn in by the local culinary scene, ending up working at a small Japanese-French bistro. From there he moved to Paris to attend culinary school at Le Ferrandi. He is now the executive chef of Gramercy Tavern. Outside [...]

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Chef Dale Talde – TALDE, NY

July 18, 2012

“Dale Talde is currently a Creative Director at Buddakan in New York City. His passion for food started at the youngest of ages as he watched his mother cook. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he went back to Chicago where he helped open Jean George Vongerichten’s Vong. He has also worked with [...]

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Chef Matthew Levin – Square Peg, PA

June 6, 2012

Matthew Levin is an American celebrity chef based in Philadelphia. He was the executive chef at Lacroix in the famed Rittenhouse Hotel until 2008. From 2010 to 2011, he was the chef at Adsum, a Queen Village bistro where he gained notoriety for dishes including Tastykake sliders and his Four Loco dinner. In March 2012, [...]

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Chef Angelo Sosa – Social Eats, NY

May 1, 2012

Angelo Sosa was the youngest of his siblings, born in Connecticut to a Dominican father and an Italian mother who believed meals were serious affairs. He graduated with High Honors from the Culinary Institute of America in 1997, after running the kitchen at the Escoffier Room, one of the institute’s highly acclaimed restaurants. In 2010, [...]

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