Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Mark Andelbradt: When I was 18, I was at an event in Chicago with Jean Joho of Everest which really inspired me. But before that, my mom worked all the time, and with 7 kids, we all had to cook when we were hungry—out of necessity.
AB: Did you attend culinary school? Why or why not?
MA: I went to Kendall College, which I’d recommend, but not always. My feeling is that most of these schools are just out for profit. I’m buying their product—the students—and they aren’t always coming in with a clear understanding of what’s expected from them.
AB: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
MA: I’d say the chefs I’ve spent the longest time with are my mentors. I spent 7 years with Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. I learned how to work hard, and how to take a beating from Rick! I have a lot of respect for Daniel Boulud because he is actually in his kitchen, and he’s really genuine. I’ve been working with Morimoto for two years now. He’s a very strong chef, and so am I, so I’m learning to meet him in the middle. Japanese cooks are so disciplined, their knife work is really incredible, and they’re really interested in American products. Here, Makoto and I try to bring all that together.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
MA: Dining should be fun—not a painful affair. I like understated elegance, but the food has got to be good! It’s nice to have some flashy techniques but you should still be able to enjoy it.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like? Why?
MA: This is the best time of the year—everything starts popping up. Ramps, sea beans, fiddleheads, burdock, Tokyo scallions, and Sudachi fruit which looks a lot like a key lime.
AB: What flavor combinations do you favor?
MA: I like acid complemented by fat, or a tomato sorbet with fresh sudachi juice.
AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
MA: My knife is really an extension of my own hand. It’s a Nenox, I like the weight and the quality of the Japanese blade.
AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
MA: I like to carbonate tomatoes. I make a King Crab salad with fizzy tomatoes. I use the ISI foamer, and just charge it with a CO2 charger rather than the nitrogen chargers. I fill the tomatoes with citrus and simple syrup foam.
AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
MA: Where are your favorite places to eat in the city?
AB: What tips would you offer a young cook just getting started?
MA: Put your nose down, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. If you’re on time, you’re late. And it you’re late, you’re fired. My team is on their station and ready to go 5 minutes before 6 o clock. This is crucial. Proper prep prevents piss-poor performance.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
MA: The French Laundry Cookbook. I like to explore different spices and flavors, like cooking with mango leaves, so I like Hot Sour Salty Sweet, which just came out.
AB: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
MA: I like Paris—the memorable places were Guy Savoy, Arpege, and Robuchon,
AB: What are your favorite restaurants off the beaten path in your city?
MA: Mercadito Grove is this great little Mexican place on 7th and Grove run by the Sandoval brothers. I love the buns and kimchee at Momofuku. Etats Unis on the Upper East Side is small, cozy and has the best guacamole in the city and a great warm date pudding.
AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
MA: Doing something on my own with Stephen.