Sit down with celebrity chef Gabe Kennedy to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his thoughts on food and life as a chef. Gabe won season three of ABC’s reality cooking competition, The Taste. On top of that, Gabe is Visiting Executive Chef at Bon Appetit and an ambassador for Concern Worldwide.
In part one of this three-part series, you’ll hear about Gabe’s favorite places to eat in New York City, must-have ingredients, and chefs he looks up to for inspiration.
Let’s talk food. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Haha! Hmm, what did I have for breakfast this morning? Honestly, I only had yogurt with maple syrup and walnuts. Zero percent Fage Greek yogurt with organic maple syrup and toasted walnuts.
What do you order when you go out?
I like to go out to places where I can’t cook the food myself. That’s why I love Uncle Boons; that’s why I love going to the Turkish place in Coney Island. I tend to gravitate towards flavors that I don’t necessarily cook with – like super exotic, super aromatic, super warm. Because I cook super clean and seasonal, etc., so when I go out to eat, I like to get freaky.
What are your top 3 favorite places to go out for dinner?
My home in Colorado, haha! Right now, like in the City? I don’t go out as much as I should, because I’m always working. I’m gonna list a few – I’ll pare them down. I love Blue Ribbon Sushi; I think Blue Ribbon Sushi is so delicious. I like Uncle Boons, I really enjoy Cosme, and ABC Kitchen.
It’s hard to pick three favorite ones, because sometimes it’s a really big experience, I eat there once and then I’m good for a while – I won’t frequent the place.
Are you always the one cooking at home?
Pretty much. I’m always the one cooking, yeah. Whether I like it or not.
Let’s talk business. What do you always have in your kitchen?
I always have really nice olive oil for finishing, and I have some coconut oil -those are my oils. I have an array of chili peppers, my favorite as of right now is the Aleppo. I always have honey. I always have lemons, sherry vinegar, and herbs. So those are my five things: usually a good fat like olive or coconut oil, a really good acid, like lemon or sherry vinegar, honey, chili pepper, and herbs.
Those are my safe-zone flavors. I know that if I have those ingredients, then I can kind of do whatever. You can make a marinade, you can make a dressing, you can make a sauce. You can play with any one of those ingredients and go a little bit heavier or lighter and it changes the whole experience.
Okay. So what would you say is your most important ingredient?
And what’s your signature dish?
I don’t know if I have a signature dish. I would say I’ve made a fair amount of curry. I think my signature dish is like a seared black cod glazed in Ketjap manis with herbs on top, floating in a curry broth with fresh seasonal vegetables. That’s what I’ve made time and time again when I want to impress someone.
But as far as my signature dish, I’m sort of still in this growth phase in my career and my learning. I don’t want to be put into a box, because who knows, maybe all I want to do next year is cook Indian food.
Let’s talk inspiration now. Which chefs do you look up to?
Hmm, well there’re a few. For different reasons, obviously, but I’ve always had a deep respect and admiration for Michel Bras (chef at Le Suquet in Laguiole, France). It’s mainly because of the way he approaches his ingredients. It’s really the epitome of respect for the ingredient. It’s lots of beautiful, perfectly cooked plants, and this philosophy that nothing is ever going to be the same. So this carrot is never going to be the exact same carrot as it is right now, so we have to treat it individually and uniquely. And if you look at his food, it’s art – it’s absolutely stunning.
I also love Anthony Bourdain because he was kind of the guy who got me into cooking. And I don’t look up to Anthony Bourdain as a chef, I look up to him as a storyteller and as someone who has found a way of engaging audiences in an incredible way. He’s just an amazing storyteller, journalist, and writer. Knowing how to cook great food is wonderful, but knowing how to speak about it, translate it, and translate the cultural experience that surrounds it is just as important.