Chef’s Interviews

Chef Kristen Kish

by Mari on October 22, 2014

Kristen Kish

Kristen Kish discovered her love for cooking at a young age, a passion that was further cultivated as she attended Le Cordon Bleu at her mother’s suggestion. Since graduating in 2006, Kish has worked in many restaurants before joining the Stir team in 2011. She draws inspiration and fulfillment from the energy and the camaraderie of the industry, and most recently has won critical acclaim for her success on Bravo’s Top Chef Season Ten: Seattle, becoming the second woman to win the coveted title of Top Chef. She is currently the Chef de Cuisine of Boston’s only Relais & Chateaux property and Chef Barbara Lynch’s newest restaurant, Menton.

What made you want to be a chef?
It all started when I was 5 years old, when I would watch “Great Chefs in the World,” a cooking show on the Discovery Channel. It had all of the European chefs and it was being dubbed over into English. Seeing that at such a young age sparked my interest.

What the most important aspect of cooking to you?
It is all about the passion and the drive. A really great dining experience requires more from a chef then textbook execution. You have to cook with your heart in order to make your guests feel the soul of your cooking. You can be a great cook and a great chef, but if you don’t have the passion then it is not going to translate to the guests.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
I get my inspiration from everywhere, and admittedly mostly from places that aren’t food related. I love going to museums, because art really inspires me. When I look at cookbooks, I tend to like the ones that are super artistic- more art books than cookbooks. I don’t necessarily read recipes even if I look up how to do something, because I like to make up my own flavor profiles. What I find when I read recipes is that it becomes implanted in my brain. If you were to ask me that question when I was much younger as a chef, I would have tried to find things in the world that forced me to come up with something, rather than it just letting it come to me.

What was a life changing epiphany that you had during your career?
When I was younger I tried to be the chefs that I saw and thought were successful, but that doesn’t work. I was young and trying to make a name for myself. I was trying to make their style of food or personality, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to get me anywhere. At that point I started over, I took a job on the line as a cook and I took that time to figure out who I was as a chef and what my style of cooking would be. No one else’s successes can be your’s, because you have to find your own way to discover what you want to be.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
My whole recommendation would be to just go in and hold the knife. My favorite knife isn’t necessarily going to be perfect for them. Everybody at Korin is really knowledgeable and can find the right fit of you based on what kind of cutting you are going to do and how much are you going to be using it. I couldn’t tell somebody what knife they should buy. They need to go in to touch them, use them, and see them to see what fits their particular style.

I have many many knives, but the knives I use daily are the Togiharu chef and Misono petty. One of these days I will buy one of those stunning Nenox knives, but I could never cut anything with them because they are too beautiful. That would be something that sits on a shelf for me, so I can look at. There is something about a beautiful knife that inspires you to cook as well.

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Chef Anthony Ricco

by Mari on October 15, 2014

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Anthony Ricco was born and raised in Brooklyn. Growing up in an Italian family, his curiosity in cooking was piqued at a young age by his grandmother’s love of cooking. He transitioned from construction work to his first position at China Grill Restaurant, which proved to be the stepping stone for an exciting culinary career. His strong drive and will to succeed have led him to his position as the executive chef at Jean-George Vongerichten’s Spice Market.

What made you want to be a chef?
I have always wanted to be a chef, because as a kid I loved playing with my food. As I got older I had a chance to play with food on a grander scale. I decided I wanted to seriously pursue this dream when I was 16 or 17 years old, but I never knew what it took to be a chef, so in my head I always wanted to be a cook.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
My mentor is Greg Brainin, he was the executive chef at Jean-George’s restaurant. I have been eating his food for so many years. He creates things that are top notch– things that even at this point in my career I couldn’t even think about putting together. Just how quickly he can put recipes together: it’s very inspiring. A lot of the recipes in this restaurant come from him. One of the dishes he made for me that changed my whole view on food in terms of how delicate and simple it can be was his trout sashimi with dill puree, lemon foam, fresh grated horseradish and crispy trout skin. It is hands down my favorite dish to eat. Out of all the things there are to eat, I want to eat that all the time.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
The most important aspect of cooking is quality and consistency. You are only as good as the meal you put out on a minute to minute basis. If you don’t have a quality meter that you can register, you are in trouble. In a restaurant this big, we put so many systems in place from the sous chefs to myself. We have so many checks and balances from the sauce list, portioning list, and recipe list that are all specified to the gram, so you have the same meal every time. The main thing each service is the seasoning of the protein to match the sauces.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
I was lucky enough to get to travel and work in other countries. I have worked in the Middle East, Istanbul, Qatar, Singapore, and a couple different places, and that experience is invaluable– to see the respect that people treat food with around the world, when you thought it is only where you are from, especially being from such a diverse place like New York City. People love their food and are as equally passionate as we are. I am a hard guy to surprise, but I think the weirdest thing I have ever tried was a turtle shell jelly dessert in Singapore.

What do you like about Japanese knives?
Most chefs like to eat Japanese cuisine, because it is clean and is the essence of what the dish is supposed to be. It has so many components to it, but they never overpower each other. If you eat that and disagree with me, I think you have the wrong philosophy and you are not thinking straight. The knives have the same sleek precision.

What do your knives mean to you?
My knife shows who I am. If you have a dull knife, you shouldn’t be cooking. If you don’t have time to sharpen the tools of your trade, then you’re not really giving it 100%. My chef coat is a little wrinkled right now and I’m not perfectly shaved, but the bottom line is that my knife is sharp. If I see my cooks are doing a good job and they’re really trying to learn, I wind up giving my knives to them. I don’t get too attached to them anymore, because I know they are eventually going. It’s just a way of me sharing and I wish people would have had done stuff like that for my cooking crew too. There wasn’t a lot of that giving spirit, and some people think I’m crazy for it.

What was your first Japanese knife?
I have plenty of Korin knives, which to me are just fun to work with and use. My first Japanese knife was the Misono UX10. By the time I was done using it, it was so small. It has a hook on the front now, but that was my practice knife.

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Chef Herb Wilson

by Mari on October 8, 2014

Herb Wilson headshot

Herb Wilson made a name for himself early working with Chefs Patrick Clark and Larry Forgione, before traveling abroad to work at the Michelin three star restaurants Gerard Pangaud and Le Freres Troisgros in Paris. Returning to New York, he became the executive chef of Le Refuge. In 1996 he opened Bambou, a Caribbean concept inspired by his Jamaican heritage. He has since served as the executive chef of Bull Run Restaurant, Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels, and is currently the executive chef of Sushi Samba in Las Vegas.

What made you want to be a chef?
I’ve been interested in cooking since I was teenager cooking for my brother while my parents were at work. As a kid, I was just experimenting with hotdogs and beans, nothing really sophisticated, but in my early twenties I saw the visual and textural beauty of how food could possibly be, and I was fascinated.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
When new products, machines, tableware, in other words new toys that Korin might offer inspires a new dish.

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I think the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives are amazing. Twenty years ago you couldn’t find decent sashimi in a sushi restaurant, but you can find sushi now in supermarkets in New York City. A lot of my cooks are from different parts of the world, but they too are using Japanese knives from Korin even with their limited budget. They realize that the knives are much sharper and of higher quality.

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Chef Paul Liebrandt

October 1, 2014

Paul Liebrandt’s cuisine seamlessly melds classical tradition with a contemporary, graphic style. During his teenage years, Leibrandt worked under Marco Pierre White, Pierre Gagnaire, and Jean-George Vongerichten before travelling to New York to work as Chef de Cuisine at Bouley Bakery. In 2000 he joined Atlas as the Executive Chef, becoming director of Papillon. In [...]

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Chef Seamus Mullen

September 24, 2014

  Seamus Mullen is an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He is known for his innovative approach to modern Spanish cuisine, and for being one of the leading chefs in the country. His first solo restaurant, Tertulia, has been highly acclaimed by top food critics and was a finalist for one of [...]

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Chef Marc Forgione

September 17, 2014

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 [...]

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Chef Atsushi Kono

September 10, 2014

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 [...]

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Chef Nils Noren

September 3, 2014

  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 [...]

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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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