Wednesday, May 5, 2010

5 Questions with Chef Eli Kirshtein

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Former Top Chef contestant Eli Kirshtein is looking to open his first restaurant in New York City.
  • Former Top Chef contestant Eli Kirshtein is looking to open his first restaurant in New York City.

Life is a bit of a whirlwind for chef Eli Kirshtein right now.

He was in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday for the latest stop on the Top Chef Tour and the Kentucky Derby, before returning to New York City for the James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday night. 

Kansas Citians got a chance to see Kirshtein when he was in town (along with fellow former Top Chef contestant Nikki Cascone) on Friday, April 16, to give a cooking demonstration as part of the Top Chef Tour.
 
Fat City got a chance to debrief with Kirshtein yesterday.
 
"I had a great time in Kansas City," Kirshtein said. "The Power & Light District was very cool."  (The Top Chef Tour event was

on the KC Live! stage in the Power & Light District.)

Besides stopping at the 801 Chop House, Kirshtein had the chance to try "a bit of everything" from Oklahoma Joe's.

"I'm a big barbecue aficionado. I'm not super picky about flavors; I appreciate each region individually. Of all the barbecue places, I've been to ... they have the best chicken I've ever had. It was done well. Often times people overcook barbecue chicken, but Oklahoma Joe's didn't."

Kirshtein is scheduled to return to Kansas City in two weeks with fellow Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie for a private event at the National Golf Club. But before he does, he answered our five questions: 

What's your guilty pleasure?

I kind of eat everything. My

guilty pleasure right now is that I'm trying to trim up, so I stopped

drinking soda. That's an enormous feat for me. I used to drink three to

four liters of Coca-Cola a day. I'm a super aficionado.

The best

is a fountain machine that is calibrated just right. You get better

consistency out of a bottle and cans can get a little syrupy. I'm pretty

sure when I was hanging on my mom's teat, there was a bottle of Coke

right there.

Your most embarrassing moment in the kitchen?

When

I was a pretty young cook [at the former Fishbone restaurant, now a

Ted's Montana Grill], I cut off the tip of my finger and had to go the

hospital. The sous chef had to run my station for me. My left index

finger is still slightly misshapen, but you have to look close to see

it.

If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I could tell you who I would like to cook for this week. I'm obsessed with Bob Costas. He's totally my hero. I was trying to meet up with him [at last weekend's] Kentucky Derby. I just feel that because of my age, he's always been the voice of the Olympics for me. If I had a dollar for every time I heard him say, "And now from the Velodrome..."

I just want to say hi to him. He might just be a unicorn -- I'm not sure he exists. There is no such thing as Bob Costas -- he just appears when he is needed.

What are the rules of conduct in your kitchen?

There are a whole lot of things. I'm a big freak about cleanliness. Not to sound arrogant, but I was a really, really great line cook, so I have really high expectations.

What makes a great line cook?

It's intangible. It's that moment when you finally fall into this ability where the food just comes out of the kitchen, and there is never a request you can't do. It's mystical.

Like Bob Costas?

Yeah, like Bob Costas [laughs].

Any other rules?

Chefs have a lot of different opinions about music. I say, you guys don't get music until we get an outstanding review. If we get a bad review, you're never getting music. It's a privilege, not a right.

So once you've received a good review, what's your favorite music to cook by?

Arcade Fire. I always want my good to be like Arcade Fire, elaborate and layered and approachable. And when it hits that certain point, it makes you happy.

[Image courtesy of Bravo]

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