Chef’s Interviews

Chef Danny Bowien

by Mari on August 27, 2014

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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 Club and Tsunami. Since this humble beginning, he has won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2013 as well as being named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” of 2013. He also collaborated with Anthony Myint to become the co-founder of Mission Chinese Food, featuring fiery, mouth-numbing dishes, a manifestation of his love for Chinese cuisine.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
The food industry in general is pretty close knit. Hopefully, this is the way it will stay. When I started cook, I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing. Do I wasn’t really a part of the chef community. Bet it’s the best thing for chefs to come together and be a community, because like any other business, things can get competitive. There is a certain amount of respect that you have for yourself and the craft that you do, and you take pride in that. But the worst thing that can happen is if people became too competitive.

What do your knives mean to you? Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
My knives represent different points in my cooking career. Obviously you have to save up and take a lot of time to decide on what you want, but that’s why I think Korin is so cool. When I bought my first Nenox knife, I had to buy it online because I was in San Francisco. And I was really scared because I never felt it and I didn’t know, but now that I live in New York, I can go to the store and feel it. As a chef you really need to think about it.

I try not to buy too many knives now, because I have so many. Usually when I buy a knife now, it’s when something significant happens. When I opened my new restaurant or got my first New York Times review, I bought a new knife. It’s nice to look back at your collection of knives. Even the way they look. It’s different places in my culinary career and my life. It’s very significant in marking where I was at the time. And of course the moment I got it is always very exciting.

When I was a kid anything impressed me, but as you get older some of the things that used to be important, are not impressive to you anymore. I don’t really care about having a big TV, a fast car or anything like that, but I do care about things that are going to be helpful in my career. I think knives are one of those things.

What is your goal for your profession?
Up until 2 years ago, I didn’t know if I would still be cooking. I had kind of given up. I work for what I felt was a long time, 8 years, and I was getting really tired of working as a line cook everyday. I loved it, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back into music and then something happened. I was going to take a break, but I couldn’t and I kept working and then from there I never thought I would open my own restaurant or work in New York again. So my goal from my profession is to not rule anything out and to be very open minded. No one knows what is going to happen. Set your standards very very high, almost to a point where it is impossible, so you’re never satisfied. My goal is to keep learning, to hopefully teach the people that work with me, and to learn from them too. Just because you’re the chef, doesn’t mean you know everything.

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Chef Dale Talde

by Mari on August 20, 2014

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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, “Top Chef.”

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
When I was in Chicago, I worked with Carrie Nahabedian at her restaurant called Naha. When I first worked with her, I was maybe three years out of culinary school. I was cooking, but I didn’t know what I was doing. When I met her, it kind of clicked. You walked into her restaurant, it was a family owned business and she treated everyone like they were family, which was good and bad. You fight harder when someone is like your brother or sister, and when you messed up in front of her, you felt like you messed up in front of your mom. There really was a sense of community in the restaurant. Her philosophy on being local and seasonal, trying to find the best source, and supporting local farmers really made an impact on me. I’d never really seen that much dedication before, and she really brought that to my attention.

What is the most important aspect of cooking?
Tasting everything. You’re producing something that is going to be eaten. If you don’t taste it, how do you know if it is good? We’re not building TVs, not saving the world, we’re not curing cancer… we are making food that has to be consumed. As a part of that process, before someone else tastes it, you have to taste it to make sure it’s good.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
As a chef, you have to travel. It is almost a part of your job to travel. You have to learn about other cultures, because you’re not just learning about food, you are learning about culture. And to learn about culture, you have to immerse yourself into it. Whether you are cooking American or Japanese food, traveling is a big part of what you need to do to grow, learn, and be better.

What do your knives mean to you?
That’s a very personal question. To me my knives are a culinary journey. It’s the beginning. Every knife has a story and my knives are the story of my career. Even as a Sous Chef in Chicago, I always felt like I was just a cook. Then I came to New York, and I thought “hey you’re in the toughest and best place for restaurants. You’re playing with the big boys now, so you have to be the best.”

What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I love it! It was inevitable. The range of food in Japan doesn’t end at sushi and sashimi, and it’s awesome street food. What I love about Japan is that like America, they also embrace other cultures through their cuisine, then reinvent it to make it their own, and they do it well.

In regards to Japanese knives… Well, if you want the best, then you get them. If you want the best car you go to Italy and get a Ferrari, or whatever you will. If you want the best, then you just have to go there. In my opinion, Japanese knives blow away anything else I’ve put in my hand to use as a tool. We work such long hours in this profession, and I’m going to have the most comfortable shoes, clothes, and knives: to me it’s only Nenox.

What is your goal in your profession?
My goal personally is to keep growing. We love opening restaurant concepts, and one of them may or may not be Japanese. A part of what we like to do is to keep it fresh and keep on changing. We have everything from a bar that serves great burgers to a tavern that has great fried chicken, and then we have Talde.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Put your head down and work. Just work. This industry is built on how much effort you put into it and that’s it. The harder you work, the more successful you will become. There are no shortcuts to what we do in this industry.

What is your philosophy towards hospitality?
Understand what the word “hospitality” means. There are a lot of chefs, general managers, and restaurateurs that do not fully understand what the word means. Our business is build on the word “hospitality.” It is about taking care of somebody, being hospitable, and being nice. This is not an easy industry, but a lot of people lose track of the fact that you have to be nice to everybody! A lot of chefs, including myself, had to learn how to be nice to everybody, and not just your guests or customers. Your purveyors, supplies, garbage collectors… You have to nice to everybody, because that’s what we do. That is my philosophy on hospitality, trying to really understand what that word means.

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Chef Jet Tila

by Mari on August 13, 2014

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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 consultant and has had many television appearances. He has launched acclaimed restaurants Wazuzu, Bistronomics, and The Charleston, most recently opening Modern Asian Kitchen and Kuma Snowcream.

What made you want to be a chef?
I didn’t have a choice in life. My family is three generations of restaurateurs. My grandparents had restaurants in Thailand, then my parents came to America and opened restaurants. It’s all I know how to do, so thankfully it’s cool.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
To create an experience for the guests eating, and to constantly perfect your craft. That is the thing about cooking, we chefs get to practice something for many years. It is important to create a sensory experience, because people eat with their eyes first and then eat with their palates. I am always torn between creating a sensory experience and perfecting a craft.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
It’s such a global cooking phenomenon right now. People travel and eat every week via television, so I think when they visually travel to a foreign country, they want to taste the cuisine of where they are. We are at an amazing time in the world and we have global chefs. If we didn’t travel there wouldn’t be this exchange of knowledge, so it’s ultimately important for any chef to go to another part of the world and be in an area where they are not comfortable in order to experience a different environment.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
Practice the art of sharpening on a whetstone if you’re going to take the journey of using a Japanese knife. Understand what they do. Spend a good amount of money, but don’t overbuy your first Japanese knife until you really understand how they work. Figure out what steel works for you and learn how to sharpen, but once you do definitely invest. You get what you pay for.

What do your knives mean to you?
I carry a very special kit of knives. If you look at the evolution of my knives through my ability and my years, my knives tell a story about the evolution of my ability. It is not a very materialistic thing, but the better I get in cooking, the better my knives have gotten and the more I appreciate fine knives. If I laid out my knives from the past twenty years, they tell a story about who I am and my culinary journey. My knives are very special to me and I probably have over sixty or eighty knives.

What knife did you start with and what is your favorite knife right now?
My very first knife was a little aluminum Thai knife that you can get in the Asian markets, the kind that all Thai grandmothers use. It was a little three dollar Thai manufactured knife, and now I use knives that are a thousand times that price. I still use those knives as well. I like to keep it interesting, and it reminds me of where I came from. I was able to get one of the thirty Suisin Hayate Limited Edition knives, and that is currently my favorite knife. It’s the one I use when I’m cooking for very high dignitaries, V.I.P.s, or television work.

What is your goal in your profession?
World domination! No, I’m kidding. I’m the type of chef that loves to be very diversified. My goal is to one day feel like I have accomplished a level of success that very few people have and to understand that being a chef is not just cooking, but running a kitchen. I also want to be a good person while doing it, and never lose my focus in myself.

Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs?
There is more knowledge available to read and to watch than any time in the history of being a chef. But reading a book or a blog and watching online videos does not make you a chef. That might increase your knowledge, but knowledge without practice is useless.

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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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Chef April Bloomfield

July 9, 2014

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 [...]

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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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