Chef’s Interviews

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

by Mari on June 30, 2014

OCEANA, NYC

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 executive chef of one of New York’s finest restaurants, he is also the father of three children, an advisor for several educational programs, and a benefactor to various charitable organizations.

What made you want to be a chef?
I wanted to become a chef because I had taken a job in the kitchen when I was in college. I did not intend on becoming a chef and it was just a part time job, but as I worked there longer and longer I really fell in love with the energy, creativity, and activity in the kitchen.

What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
I worked for a full year with Chef Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monte Carlo and it was an amazing experience, not simply within the kitchen. I learned how to cook with such precision and attention there. I was also exposed to a different flavor palates from the cuisine along the French Riviera. It was really its own type of cuisine. There is a general lightness, more reliance on vegetables and seafood, more olive oil, and just an overall cleanness in flavors. It was life changing to be immersed in the different culture and understand how other people look at food from a different perspective than you. Whether you are cooking or not, it is critical to learn.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
Floyd Cardoz is the most significant mentor in my career. I worked for him for several years at Tabla in New York City, I was his sous chef and then his chef de cuisine. He gave me the skills to become a chef, to run and manage a restaurant and kitchen. Just as important, he taught me the authentic use of spices and genuine Indian techniques and ingredients. I wouldn’t have been exposed to that anywhere else, and it really shaped how I cook today. By adding to the ingredients and techniques in my repertoire, I truly understand spices, and use them in both an authentic manner and in new ways.

What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
The creativity in coming up with new recipes and the continual development of myself as a chef. Also teaching my cooks and sous chefs how to run a kitchen, to create new dishes, and supporting them as they grow in their career.

What do your knives mean to you?
A cook’s knives are a reflection of him or herself. How do they take care of them? Do they keep them clean, protected, sharpened, and organized in such a manner that they are easy to use?For me, how you take care of your knives is the single most important thing in the kitchen and what says the most about you as a chef.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
Begin with a Japanese Western knife like a sujihiki or a gyutou, especially if you have been using European style knives. You’ll have the best of both worlds with a little bit different style of blade and a better weighted knife. Once you’ve master the use and maintenance of those knives, then move on to other knives. I think it is important to start with two to three knives and increase the number of knives as you increase your skills and proficiency. Rather than using many knives that you don’t use or use very well, master using one knife.

What is your goal for your profession?
My goal for my profession is to create an environment where I inspire the people who work with me. I want the cooks in my kitchen to become better cooks, and my sous chefs to become chefs that can move on to lead their own kitchen.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
My advice for aspiring chefs is to have patience and take care of yourself. What I mean by patience is to make sure you’re really learning the fundamentals of cooking in a good kitchen. Not just learn how to cook, but also how to organize the kitchen, manage your time, and work well with others. That takes time, so don’t rush to become a sous chef or executive chef right away. Take your time and learn how to do it the right way.

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Chef Isao Yamada

by Mari on June 23, 2014

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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 join his Japanese restaurant project. This collaboration has won much acclaim, and through his work at Bouley Evolution, Upstairs at Bouley, and Brushtroke, Yamada has succeeded in bringing his acute sensitivity for Japan’s seasonal food culture to New York.

What have you learned on your travels abroad?
I went to Spain last year, so of course the environment I was raised in was completely different than Europe. There was a restaurant up in the mountains that charcoal grilled all of their dishes. I ate these red Spanish shrimps that were grilled until they were very crunchy on the outside, but the inside was warm and not completely cooked. When I had it I thought, “This is amazing, it’s like Japanese dishes where the concentration in on the ingredients and it’s not touched beyond what needs to be done.” I realized that no matter where you are in the world, countries with high quality ingredients will concentrate on the natural flavors.

What do you like about Japanese knives?
I’ve been using Japanese knives for about 16 years, but I still find myself impressed and surprised by the sharpness of their blades. The entry cut and cross section of the cut is incomparable to any other knife. When you find a really good knife, you can’t help but be a little smittened. I think everybody finds themselves admiring their favorite knives even when they’re not being used.

What was your first knife?
My first knife was an usuba knife that I purchased in Sakai city. I admit I squeezed pennies to buy it since my pay wasn’t very high, but I found the knife I liked and purchased it. I only used it for three years, because I was a beginner and I was not sharpening it properly. It definitely did not last very long in comparison to what I have now. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to use my first knife again, maybe it would last longer.

How do you shop for knives?
Knives are not something I shop for often, so when I do I am very serious about it. I go to many different stores and look for something I really like.

What is your goal for your career?
I don’t currently have a long term goal, because everyday is such a challenge. My mentality and things I do have changed so much over the years and Brushstoke is finally in its third year. I only have the short term goal of simply make each customer happy.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Continue what you started. This goes for being in a restaurant or studying the culinary arts, if you start just keep going. I think there is something to gain no matter what happens in the long run. If you fail, then at least you know what you need to do next time.

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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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Chef Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez – Print Restaurant, NY

April 30, 2012

Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez is the Executive Pastry Chef of PRINT. Restaurant located in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.  Celebrated for her 3-star desserts, she attended the Restaurant School in Philadelphia before traveling to France to complete her education in Burgundy and Paris. Heather has worked in a slew of notable establishments, including Tom Colicchio’s Mondrian, Union Square Café, L’Impero, [...]

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Chef Dan Kluger & daughter Ella – ABC Kitchen, NY

March 23, 2012

We had the privilege to meet with Chef Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen and his 6 years old daughter, Ella. We took lots of pictures of them cooking together and got to asked them questions about their knives, yes even little Ella’s Misono Kid’s knife! Chef Dan Kluger: Nowadays my cooking life is so different. [...]

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