StarChefs: You have worked in
some of the world’s finest restaurants before becoming an
executive chef yourself. At which restaurant and with which chef
did you learn the most?
Kerry Simon: Oh that's a tough
question. I learned different things from different people. Off
the bat, working with John George Vongerichten was the most exciting
food situation I had. He would come in and every day was a new day.
He would challenge you to come up with new ideas. It was myself,
Pierre Shultz (Vong's chef under John George) and John George. It
was the first time I had a little independence.....once he trusted
You had a tremendous opportunity to work at Lutece under Andre Soltner.
What was it like to work under such a master chef?
KS: It was the first place I worked
before I went to CIA. I remember how glamorous it was – whites,
toques. It was all about being disciplined. It had a certain Zen
to it. Everyday you'd do the same thing. At some point you'd change
your jacket and put on a toque and the place would get crazy. It
was always busy and glamorous, filled with celebrities. I was there
to learn and follow in Andre's tracks. I learned a lot about Alsatian
SC: You were also the executive
chef at the Edwardian Room in New York's Plaza Hotel. What was it
like working for the Trumps?
KS: Intense. It's the first word
that always appears in my mind whenever I think of that period of
time. Their lives were insanity. Ivana interviewed what seemed like
hundreds of chefs. There was a lot of weight on my shoulders. It
was fun, but required many hours. But I was able to innovate once
he (Donald Trump) trusted me. This was after I was able to meet
a certain criteria on the menu.
SC: At the Plaza you were famed
for having a special table smack in the middle of
the kitchen where celebrities would eat. What was that like? Did
it make you self-conscious?
KS: At first I never thought I
could do that. I used to watch Andre (Soltner) do the same, and
at first it was difficult for me. Then I got used to it. It probably
changed my career. Sometimes certain celebrities would come in and
I'd get flustered. It was great for my chefs overall. Right away
they could see how people reacted to the food.
SC: Sounds like a lot of fun!
Are you ever planning to have a table inside your kitchen again?
KS: Yeah, I guess somewhere in
the back of my mind I am always looking for that
perfect kitchen that could accommodate a table. I know Le Bernardin
has one and so does
SC: David Burke has one too at
Park Avenue Cafe in NY.
KS: Oh, that’s a funny story.
I came into work one day and someone said there was a chef here
that had a measuring tape and was mapping out the dimensions of
the table area in the kitchen. It turned out to be David. He didn't
take the idea from me. It's not something new. It's been done for
years in France and other countries.
SC: If you were to describe your
cuisine what words would you use?
KS: Modern American. Everything
is based around American products.
SC: How has your cuisine evolved
over the years?
KS: I feel almost like a chameleon.
After leaving the Plaza, I wanted to do food that
was very simple. So you didn't have to be wealthy in order to eat
my food. I wanted
to be more accessible to the public. And I guess I'm going a bit
I'm very fat conscious with my cooking.
SC: Except your famous meatloaf!
What makes your celebrated meatloaf so good?
KS: It's partly because it has
veal and is made with fresh herbs. It's finished with
smoked bacon. We took it off the menu in some restaurants I’ve
been in because it didn’t work well with the feel of the restaurant,
such as Mercury in Miami.
SC: Oh, what a disappointment!
How do you feel about that?
KS: I don't get attached to dishes.
Maybe I'll make another that will be just as
popular. But I'm there to please the public. If they still request
it. We'll see.
SC: Where do you think American
cuisine is going? What do you think the next trend is going to be?
KS: It's hard to read right now.
It's the first time that it seems that there are so
many things going on. Comfort food was a trend for a while. It’s
again. There are a lot of Asian things going on. Vegetarianism is
getting a bigger
market. There is a lot of cross cuisine. For instance, sushi bars
in restaurants, like
Match. Also, more and more people are requesting low fat. They have
10 years but it is becoming considered the norm.
SC: What is your favorite ingredient?
KS: Ooh boy, that's a hard one.
Right now I'd say Chiso. It's a green leaf that the Japanese use.
It has a mint-pepper taste. It's spicy. The Japanese roll sushi
up in it. I steam fish in it or wrap tuna in it. Also, I like soft
SC: How do you prepare it?
KS: With a curry cinnamon crust
and then sautéed. I serve it with a blood orange and
tomato salsa. Then I add a cilantro pesto.
SC: What tools can you not be
without in the kitchen?
KS: French knives, my Champion
juicer and my All-Clad sauté pans.
SC: Thank you for taking the
time to speak with us, Chef!