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Q & A with Ming Tsai

Posted on Apr 15, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

If after reading this interview, you remember one thing, remember this: Chef Ming Tsai does not cook Asian fusion.  “Fusion just leads to confusion,” insists Tsai and there’s nothing confusing about his cooking at Boston’s acclaimed Blue Ginger.  Tsai’s cooking style?  East Meets West, which makes sense when you consider his childhood.  A Chinese American, Ming Tsai, grew up in Ohio, where he worked at his parents’ Chinese restaurant.  It was there he learned his way around a restaurant before attending Yale University.   Over the years, Tsai’s earned himself a highly regarded reputation, but few know that he not only developed the Food Allergy Reference Book, but also helped pass a law requiring local restaurants to adhere to food allergy safety codes.  A few of his other accomplishments include a PBS show, traveling cooking show – Ming’s Quest –...

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Q & A with Amanda Cohen

Posted on Apr 7, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

There’s a lot of respectable vegetarian restaurants in New York these days — raw, macrobiotic, and even microbiotic food.  Most are guilty of mock meats, like faux franks, veggie bacon and tofurkey. Not Amanda Cohen.  She lobbies against them at Dirt Candy, her new — and controversially named — tiny restaurant in the East Village.  Yes, the name is awful and no one can resist poking fun.  “At least people remember it!” Cohen says and, if she do it all over again, she’d keep the name.  Her inspiration is sincere: “Vegetables are mother nature’s candy.”  She’s also gotten quite a bit of press on her review of a New York Times dining brief about Dirt Candy. To think, Cohen used to deep fry buffalo wings for a living.  She changed directions, working in some of the city’s best vegetarian...

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Q & A with Leah Cohen

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

If you haven’t tasted Leah Cohen’s piccolini or pasta at Centro Vinoteca in the West Village, you probably only know her as New York’s hometown favorite on this season’s Top Chef.  To think, she started her career delivering pizzas and now she runs her own kitchen in the West Village. Leah had no clue what she wanted to do wtih her life.  She stumbled into cooking at college, working part time in a restaurant.  Before Centro, Cohen worked in Sicily and under Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park.  Her hardest gig to date was standing before Padma, Tom, & Gail every week on Top Chef.  She didn’t win, but she’s dating the guy who did take first place — Hosea Rosenberg.  Now that Top Chef’s over, she’s back in Centro’s kitchen, cooking up kabocha squash ravioli with walnuts, brown butter, and vincotto and braised short...

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Q & A wih Rick Bayless

Posted on Mar 24, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Rick Bayless doesn’t just cook Mexican food.  He redefines it and he’s been doing so  for eleven years.  What’s even more unique about this Bayless is that he’s American and what he calls, “a translator of Mexican cooking.”  In 1987, he opened Frontera Grill in Chicago.  Since then, he has explored highbrow Mexican at Topolobampo and lowbrow at Frontera Fresco. If you’ve never visited his restaurants in Chicago, Bayless has also got a prepared food line of his own and numerous cookbooks.  If that’s not enough for one chef to handle, he also just wrapped filming the seventh season of his PBS series Mexico, One Plate at a Time.  We were caught up with Bayless during his annual Macy’s culinary council and got to ask him why he won’t open in New York. Would you ever consider opening in...

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Q & A with Daniel Humm

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

What do you get when you combine 18 years of culinary experience with multi-starred cooking in Switzerland, San Francisco and New York?  Daniel Humm.  You can taste his exceptional work at Eleven Madison Park, but his journey to New York is nearly as unique.   Chef Humm jump-started his career at age 14 when he apprenticed in some of Switzerland’s top restaurants, such as Hotel Baur au Lac.  Humm left there for Gasthaus zum Gupf in the Swiss Alps, where the then teenager quickly rose to executive chef and earned the restaurant a Michelin Star. Next stop: America.  He landed a position at Campton Place in San Francisco, instantly drawing praise.   More importantly, he found a team and formed a bond so strong with his staff that he took them to New York to work alongside him at Danny...

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Q & A with Alain Allegretti

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Alain Allegretti may not look like it, but he’s a farmer at heart.  And Eater’s Hottest Chef of 2009.   The Ducasse-trained chef spent much of his childhood gathering produce and tending to animals on his family farm in Nice.  But it was at mealtime that he learned how to cook.  Allegretti learned the foundations from his grandmother, Alain Ducasse, Alain Chapel and Le Chantecler under Jacques Maximin. Why a chef would leave France for New York?  Perhaps to be the co-executive chef at Le Cirque 2000, only to follow it up as head of kitchen at multi-starred Atelier.  He also owns a farm upstate, where he grows some of the produce you’ll find on the menu at Allegretti, his solo debut in the Flatiron District. Despite a less than ideal economy, Alain has managed to thrive and draw critical attention,...

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Q & A with City Bakery's Maury Rubin

Posted on Mar 4, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

The secret of City Bakery’s hot chocolate will apparently remain a secret.  At least until owner Maury Rubin is — god forbid — dead.   Ironically, Maury Rubin is an accidental baker and restaurateur.  In fact, a two-time Emmy award winner for his work as a television sports producer and director.   But a pastry class in France changed all that. Now, there’s not only a City Bakery in New York, but LA’s got one of their own.  And we’ve got two green Birdbath Bakeries in Manhattan. How do you go from directing television and making documentaries to pretzel croissants and pastries?  We’re not sure.  Maybe it’s the lure of the outrageously crispy chocolate chip cookies. Or the mammoth-sized Baker’s Muffin.  Or the hot chocolate Maury Rubin is well-versed when it comes to the science of rich, molten chocolate. So much...

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Q & A with Bryan Calvert

Posted on Feb 24, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Bryan Calvert is a family man – he named his restaurant after his great-grandfather and followed in his footsteps as a chef.  He also works really close to home – in fact, right below his Prospect Heights apartment. He runs and owns James with his wife and business partner Deborah Williamson.  It’s their first restaurant together.   An alumni of Union Pacific, Calvert worked for several years at Bouley.  Factor in being a private chef for Annie Liebovitz and owning an catering company and you’ve got a thriving restaurant. When the seasons permits,  he freshly snips herbs from his own garden before and after service to work into his menu.  It’s winter in New York, so we’ll have to wait til it warms up to eat from his herb garden on his rooftop.  Right now, there’s crispy sweetbreads with Hubbard...

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Q & A with Johnny Iuzzini

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

It’s been over a year since we interviewed Johnny Iuzzini, and he’s been very busy.  Since then, he’s published a new cookbook, Dessert Fourplay, and taken on a second career. Iuzzini’s isn’t just the pastry chef at Jean-Georges, which would be a full-time job for most everyone.  He’s also been studying the art of cocktail making at PDT cocktail bar.   He’s even got plans to open his own cocktail bar.  For now, he’s perfecting the dessert quartet at Jean-Georges.   Right now, there’s a chocolate quartet of cake, sponge, gnocchi and egg cream and spring is just on the horizon. Single/Married/Divorced?Unmarried but in a relationship Since we last interviewed you in 2007, how do you think you’ve grown as a pastry chef?I cook less for myself, and more for our clients, said another way, I have toned down...

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Q & A with Albert Trummer

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Just when you thought you’d seen everything, Apotheke came along.  It’s not easy to find.   Tucked away on Chinatown’s Doyers Street — a spot with a long history of bloody Chinese gang fights and shady opium dens — Apotheke is part cocktail bar, part pharmacy, and part alchemy.   It’s the brainchild of “Bar chef” Albert Trummer and partners Heather & Chris Tierney.    Whatever you do, don’t order a gin & tonic or cosmo.  You’d be missing the point at this apothecary, serving meticulously created cocktails made with house-infused spirits, Asian herbs, and obscure South American leaves.  Trummer even fashions his own brand of absinthe.  Inspired by the pharmacies of his native Vienna, Trummer divides his offerings up to help you decide from the 250 plus cocktails served.   The menu offers “Stress Relievers”, “Aphrodisiacs,” and “Health & Beauty”...

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Q & A with the Rouge Tomate Team

Posted on Feb 4, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

When it comes to restaurant pedigrees, it’s hard to beat Rouge Tomate. The Chef Jeremy Bearman, a guy who used to work the deli counter, quickly climbed up through the culinary ranks all the way to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.  Pastry chef James Distefano began his career under Richard Leach at Park Avenue Café, and eventually moved on to whimsy at davidburke & donatella. But let’s not forget Natalia Rusin, the in-house nutritionist.  Rusin is anything but the granola and tofu type.  In fact, she was a daytime dietician, private chef at night, so she refuses to sacrifice flavor for health’s sake. There’s Rouge Tomate religion is an 85-page S.P.E. charter — from the Latin Sanitas Per Escam- health through food — focusing on nutritious and local ingredients.  What’s on the menu, a super silky celery root and almond...

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Q & A with Daniel Boulud

Posted on Jan 27, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

How do you go from plucking chickens on a small farm in France to becoming one of the most accomplished chefs in the world?  That’s what I asked Daniel Boulud.   After forty years in the business, he’s built a global empire of nine thriving restaurants and six cookbooks.  He moved to New York at the age of twenty five and was awarded four stars as the executive chef at Le Cirque and earned the restaurant the title of, “best restaurant in America.”   In 1993, Daniel Boulud made his solo debut, opening his own restaurant, Daniel.    and The International Herald Tribune named Daniel one of the top ten best restaurants in the world.  Boulud was raised on farm-to-table French cooking. The oldest of five children, his after school chores involved picking haricot vert from the family garden.  Forty years...

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Q & A with Scott Conant

Posted on Jan 22, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

At age eleven, when most of us were still mastering the art of the Easy Bake Oven, Scott Conant was enrolled in cooking classes and well on his way to becoming a chef.   Conant wasted no time. While attending the CIA, he did his externship at San Domenico, then took a brief hiatus to open a restaurant in New Orleans.  He returned to New York to graduate and went onto work at both Chianti and City Eatery, where he receiving glowing reviews and critical praise. In 2002, L’Impero opened and Conant officially arrived on the New York dining scene and changed the way we looked at Italian cooking.  He elevated a simple bowl of spaghetti and tomato sauce to an opulent plane, and in doing so, garnered a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.  He followed L’Impero...

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Q & A with Ignacio Mattos

Posted on Jan 14, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Nearly every good young chef knows how to roast a pig in New York these days.   But how many can say they’ve roasted one in the middle of a city street?  A fashionable one at that.  Ignacio Mattos did just that for the annual  Sagra del Maiale event at il buco . It might sound like the place you’d find a guy raised on a dairy farm in Uruguay. But Mattos had it all figured out by the age of 16.  His cooking teacher was his grandmother.   Milk and vegetables went from the family’s farm straight to their table.  A locavore before his time, Mattos packed his bags and traveled the world with his friend, Chef Francis Mallman.   Last stop on this journey was Chez Panisse in San Francisco and then to New York’s The Spotted Pig.  Whatever you...

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Q & A with Gael Greene

Posted on Jan 6, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

40 years – Most queens don’t rule for that long.  But that’s how long ago Gael Greene arrived on the NYC restaurant scene, changing the way we think about food.  She reigned as a New York Magazine’s chief restaurant critic for thirty-four years and stayed on until just recently as the magazine’s Insatiable Critic for six years.  Greene was notorious for her wide-brimmed hats, passion, and documented affairs with the likes of Clint Eastwood an a chef from Le Cirque chef.  Greene created her very own brand of culinary sensuality, sharing every detail of her professional and personal life in her memoir Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess. Two erotic novels, non-fiction guides, and one sexy memoir later, Gael Greene isn’t showing signs of slowing down.   Greene bends with the times, adapting to a new world order of...

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Q & A with Toshio Suzuki

Posted on Dec 24, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

When sushi chef Toshio Suzuki opened up Manhattan’s SushiZen in 1984, he was up against a lot of skepticism. The very notion of eating raw fish was still a novel concept to New York.   Iron Chef Morimoto learned his craft from chef Suzuki. Back then, Suzuki was a radical, daring customers to order “trust his omakase” and brave his live fish preparations.  Befoer that, hetrained in Tokyo under Master Chef Nakanori.   To think, Suzuki first set out to become a Buddhist monk.   These days, the kitchen is his temple where he creates dishes like eel chirashi sushi- a combination of steamed eel, shrimp, salmon roe, chestnuts, ginko nuts and lotus root, over a bed of rice. Single/Married/Divorced?Married with 2 sons. What did you want to be when you grew up?A Buddhist monk. What was your first job...

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Q & A with Patrick Connolly

Posted on Dec 16, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Bobo’s always been a looker.  But there’s more to a restaurant than a glittery chandelier and well-dressed dining room.   Especially when you’re hungry for dinner.  This West Village restaurant has had its share of chef shuffles.   But Patrick Connolly is hoping to change bobo’s reputation.  Connolly may have won round 1 of Eater’s Hottest Chef Competition, but he doesn’t intend to coast on his good looks either. Connolly got his start working at a family-run pub to pay back his student loans.  After dropping out from Johnson & Wales, he went on to work at several restaurants in Providence and Boston.  He quickly rose to Executive Chef at Radius in Boston—a modern French restaurant—where he has spent the last four years.  This past summer, he received the James Beard Award for Best Chef Northeast.  Just recently, the young chef moved...

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Q & A with Franklin Becker

Posted on Dec 9, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

It’s a brave chef who would try to rescue a sinking restaurant.  That’s just what Franklin Becker did when Gary Robins abruptly abandoned Sheridan Square a few months ago.  Unfortunately, both the restaurant and its sister tapas bar, Tierra, were already too far gone and both soon closed.  But Franklin Becker isn’t new to the chef shuffle or the sometimes fickle industry.  Over the years, he’s managed to earn praise for his cooking at a number of restaurants. With Becker in the kitchen, Capitale was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2007.  Tribeca Soho Grand soon followed suit. How many chefs would kill to cook at Le Cirque?  Not an easy audition to get, but Becker was just recently a candidate.  What did he cook?  An eight-course menu that included a salad of exploding bleu cheese croutons,...

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Q & A with Ryan Skeen

Posted on Dec 2, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Ryan Skeen made quite an entrance with his lamb burger at Resto.   Admittedly, some chefs are one-hit wonders.  Not Skeen.  This chef transformed Irving Mill — a restaurant that opened to universally negative reviews — into a respectable house of offal.  The young chef first honed his skills at Cafe Boulud under Andrew Carmellini.  But Resto’s Belgian menu gave us just a glimpse at Skeen’s potential. Irving Mill is a bigger stage stage and a much more formidable undertaking.   Here, Skeen has done away with most of the menu, replacing it with an army of porcine plates.  The charcroute plate comes with housemade sausages and crispy pigs’ feet or a crispy pig’s ear salad with raddichio, escarole and a poached egg.  And it wouldn’t be a Skeen menu without a burger — the Irving Mill patty is a mix of flap...

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Q & A with Heather Bertinetti

Posted on Nov 25, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Heather Bertinetti used to clean bathrooms in a patisserie.  Now — she’s the head pastry chef at Convivio.  Not bad at all.  Bertinetti studied at the Culinary Institute of America before landing jobs at Gramercy Tavern and per se. Nowadays, Bertinetti works alongside Michael White at both Alto and Convivio, juggling haute and rustic desserts.  At Alto, she layers a homemade torrone with nougat semifreddo, hazelnut cake, and chocolate sauce.  At Convivio, she takes a polished approach to Southern Italian with a pistachio tartaletta, garnished with blood orange sorbet and candied pistachios. Single/Married/Divorced?Single. What did you want to be when you grew up?I always wanted to be a pastry chef. What was your first job in food and what did you learn?This little pastry shop in New Jersey called La Petite Patisserie. I learned how to build, make and...

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