Friday, May 29, 2009

Interview with Hubert Keller, Tim Love, Christopher Lee, and Michael Schlow - Part Two

On The Risk of Appearing on Top Chef Masters

Tim: Of course your staff always wants you to bring home the win but the risk is nothing compared to the reward when you’re going into something like this – for a charity – making a change in someone else’s life. The competition took a backseat – you’re there to make a good show and to compete with your colleagues. Everyone who enters is a winner, or else we wouldn’t be there. And you’re judged everyday in your restaurant, so this was nothing new.

Michael: Tim hit it right on the head. And our kitchen staffs – they were proud to see us go because they all follow the show. What’s funny is that you just don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s something about the comfort of your own kitchen, where you know where everything is and how long things take. But here you’re in a foreign place.

Hubert: Definitely not to prove ourselves. I think we’ve done enough in our careers to have proven ourselves. Every day, we’re not proving ourselves, but are competing with our peers in other restaurants. That’s what we do in our restaurants.

On Foie Gras

Hubert: It’s a touchy subject, especially in California. With our background, French cuisine, it’s been over 2000 years of producing foie gras. It was the Romans who learned it from the Greeks and took it to Strasbourg and introduced it to that part of France. It’s a big debate – who brought the foie gras in. Today, we know it’ll be over in 2 ½ years. I still have a heavy demand when it comes to foie gras but probably within 2 years or maybe even before that I will probably stop serving it. We were also one of the first restaurants that became non-smoking.

Michael: I’ve been to the foie gras farm in Hudson Valley – it’s a pretty amazing place. It’s like Old Macdonald. It’s a humane place. What’s more or less humane? Catching a fish and letting die or taking the liver? It’s all for the flesh.

Chris: There’s this whole idea – we raise animals to slaughter to consume. How you get there–there should be certain rules–but you could call our whole way of life cruelty.

Tim: How far does it go? If these people put as much energy into cancer or fighting autism or the March of Dimes as they do into fighting foie gras–which is a consumable animal, period–put some effort into something that’s worth a crap. We like to eat it.

Michael: A few years ago there was a story about supermarkets that wouldn’t sell live lobsters anymore because it was inhumane. There was a story about a company in Britain that was going to electrocute the lobster because it was more humane. Who was going to make that little tiny electric chair? I’m not telling anybody they can’t have their opinion, but the animals are not tortured.

On Other Career Choices

Michael: I was a very good athlete and went to college to play baseball. I was always very very good at baseball but it was not my passion. I played because I was pushed into it because I was good. But I am so lucky to have found cooking. I found it at a young age, it’s my passion, it’s my life. I wouldn’t be a baseball player if I was not a chef. I think for a lot of chefs–architecture, advertising–something creative. When you think of what we do it encompasses history, art, culture–we get to travel a lot.

Hubert: I would be in the music industry. I would’ve loved that.

Chris: I’d probably be 20 pounds lighter, I’m sure. I always had a passion to be a builder. Whether a mechanic building cars/motorcycles, I probably would’ve gone down that path myself.

Tim: Either played professional soccer or been an architect. I designed a bunch of homes in high school and college. I designed the home I live in now. I really enjoy that type of stuff. The puzzle of it, making it fit together. Same as cooking, adjusting time. But cooking–it’s the greatest job in the world. Long hours, but you party with your friends everyday. I have fun everyday, I can tell you that. No doubt about it.

Click here for part one.

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