Chef’s Interviews

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

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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

by Mari on October 1, 2014

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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 2008, he opened his own restaurant Corton, which quickly garnered critical acclaim, receiving two Michelin stars and three stars from the New York Times. In 2013 he turned his attention to other projects, including his new Williamsburg restaurant The Elm and plans for his signature restaurant Paul Liebrandt.

What made you want to be a chef?
My father wanted me to go into the British army when I was 15 years old. I got all the way to the point of signing a six year contract, and I said to myself “I’ll be so old… By the end I’ll be twenty one years old. I want to cook instead.” I don’t know why, because no one in my family is in the food business, I just felt that I wanted to do.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
I was inspired by Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. There is a very interesting, thoughtful, and creative approach to the entire style of the cuisine. There is rhythm to it, and it is much more than just ingredients or technique. There is a beauty to it.

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I adore Japanese cuisine. I love the focus and reverence for ingredients. Whether it be a bowl of ramen noodles or kaiseki, there is a level of understanding and craftsmanship. When you eat it, you can respect it like the person respected the product. I like that, it is very hard to find these days. In terms of knives, I only use Japanese knives. They are the best.

What was your first Japanese knife?
My first Japanese knife was a Masamoto 11 inch slicer.

What is your goal for your profession?
To just do the best I can everyday and make people happy.

What’s your philosophy towards hospitality?
Hospitality has relaxed on a worldwide basis, but some things never change. Customers come in no matter what the style of your restaurant and have a good time. They want to enjoy themselves and have value for money. No matter what trends come and go, these things will never change. My job is to make sure that we never change. We want people to enjoy themselves. We want them to forget whatever is happening in their lives, to focus on having a great experience, and to relax.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Be true to who you are. It’s very hard to be focused in this business with people pulling you, but be focused on who you are. Steady the course and don’t give up.

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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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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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