My editor at Serious Eats warned me that Alex Stupak, the chef/owner of Empellon in NYC, could be a bit brusque in interviews. Instead, I found him to be incredibly articulate, respectful and humble. Since then I’ve interviewed Alex and his awesome wife/partner chef Lauren Resler on various other projects, and am continually delighted by how thoughtful, considerate people they are.
Oh, and their food is pretty incredible too. I’ve been to both of their restaurants several times and am consistently satiated by the time I leave.
I recently covered Alex’s second Push Project dinner, where be brings another chef into his kitchen for a 9-course joint tasting menu. For this incarnation he brought in Jordan Kahn from Red Medicine in L.A.
Alex let me hang in the kitchen. This is what I got to see happen:
“So if it takes me ten or fifteen or twenty years or I never get to it, at least I’m trying to do it. I’m trying to reach for something that’s very far away.”
There are many things that make me curious:
People – in general.
Food – in general.
People – hard-working and humble ones, particularly.
Food – that is nourishing, creative, and well-thought out, specifically.
In doing my research about Chef Alex Stupak I read some rather bracing things: some writers and NYC eaters seemed to take his leaving wd-5o – where he was a highly acclaimed pastry chef – far too personally and rather irately. In my opinion Stupak dealt with the drama with much patience and class, putting his head down and working his ass off to build a restaurant in a cuisine (Mexican) that he was still studying. Yes, his opinions may read as ego-driven. But I saw very little ego in this chef.
We live in a world in which accomplishment in one’s field often comes with a level of social responsibility – to comment, to tweet, to sit down with inquisitive people such as myself and answer questions that could easily remain in the kitchen. Our world is smaller than it used to be. It’s harder to hide behind an apron.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, only that I feel fortunate to get to sit with some of the most admirable chefs in the city, to satiate my curiosity on what makes them excited about the food I get to eat.
Go to Serious Eats NY for my interview with Chef Alex Stupak.
Next week: Chef Harold Dieterle