06/21/18 12:42pm

Photo: Rachmat Lianda (@arhcamt)

Nigel “Moon Man” Sielegar is a pretty busy guy. In addition to running the Moon Man Indonesian desert stand at the Queens Night Market, and helming the award-winning Corse Design Factory, he teaches at SVA, and still finds time to eat his way across Queens. Be sure to stop by to say “‘Hello, Moon Man’ this Saturday night!” I’m not quite sure where he found the time to answer Seven Questions, but I’m glad he did!

1. Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Queens?
I’m originally from Surabaya (for those who don’t know, it’s the second largest city in Indonesia). I moved to United States when I was 18 for college. I lived in Chicago for a good 5.5 years before I moved to New York in 2007. I’ve been living in Queens ever since and I love it here.

2. What do you like most about the neighborhood you live in?
To me personally, Queens (or in my case, the border of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst) is the model of a perfect neighborhood. The diversity of people is unbeatable, within the same block you can hear multitude of languages being spoken by passerby. Race, religion, and skin color don’t matter much. Everyone respects each other’s culture and embrace the myriads of differences. There’s a system of coexistence that you just can’t find in other places.

As it is true everywhere else in the world, when the culture is rich, the food is rich. The choices and quality of food in this neighborhood is incredible, and you can find anything from down to earth dumplings and kebab carts, humble family restaurants, all the way to fancy steakhouses all within walking distance. You can’t find this anywhere else in New York. (more…)

Cochon555, the porkcentric festival that celebrates heritage breed hogs returns to New York City this Sunday pairing five chefs with five different breeds in a competition like no other. Also returning this year are Erika Nakamura and Jocelyn Guest of White Gold Butchers who will break down a Large Black and auction  off the cuts to benefit Piggy Bank. Erika was gracious enough to find the time to answer Seven Questions before  Sunday’s festivities.

1. How did you get into butchering?
I have a background in sculpture.  When I changed careers and became a line cook, I quickly realized that it was not for me.  At the same time, I was exposed to aspects of whole animal butchery that really spoke to me, so I decided to pursue it.

2. What is your favorite thing about Cochon555?
My favorite part of Cochon555 is the community building and philanthropic aspects of the event.  Over the past 9 years I have had the pleasure of meeting so many awe-inspiring chefs, farmers, wine-makers, and butchers who I am able to call friends.  It’s amazing to support one another and to learn and grow. (more…)

10/02/17 10:55pm

It’s been a big week for Ms. Tjahjadi as The New York Times called my dear friend Chef Dewi in last week’s Hungry City. Chef Dewi formerly of Java Village now cooks at Indo Java a small Indonesian grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens. Every Tuesday afternoon you can stop by for lunch, usually with a choice of a dish or two, served up by Dewi. This pop-up, affectionately called Warung Selasa (Tuesday “Food Stall”), is perhaps the best way to experience Indonesian food in New York, according my local Indonesian food guru Dan Hill who was kind enough to interview Chef Dewi between bites of his bakso mangkok.

When did you start cooking?
I started cooking from home in New York in 2003.

You didn’t cook in Indonesia before you moved here?
No, never. I worked as a secretary. Cooking wasn’t a hobby of mine. I learned how to cook when I moved to New York. I helped my mother cook at home as a child, but that was it.

Do you remember your favorite cooking of your mother’s when you were a child?
No, but I learned from my Mom that if I wanted to eat something, I had to make it from scratch. I had to prepare all the ingredients and cook everything. So I remember the cooking process, but I never cooked. For example, if I wanted to make lontong sayur. I would have to make the lontong by cleaning the rice and making the lontong. The vegetables I would have to cut, like the chayote . . . and at that time there wasn’t grated coconut, so at that time we had to grate the whole coconut by ourselves. So everything had to be done from the beginning.

Bakso mangkok, literally a bowl of beef meatball soup inside a bowl made of beef itself.

So you knew how to do all these things, but you didn’t like cooking?
No, I didn’t like it. I liked making cake. I liked baking, but I never did that either! [laughs]  (more…)

02/12/17 12:49pm
aureliencaul

When he’s in full production Aurelién Dufour goes through 100 pounds of caul fat in a week.

Aurelién Dufour is a true master of his craft—French charcuterie—as my dear friend Chef David Noeth and I found out a year ago when we started drooling over his Facebook page. After a 7-year stint as the head chef charcuterie at Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group the 30-year-old charcutier founded his own company Dufour Gourmet. 

Chef Dave and the team at New York Epicurean Events are honored to have Chef Dufour as part of the judges panel for Charcuterie Masters 2017 on Saturday, Feb. 25. Dufour will also be showcasing his products at the festival. For further details and to purchase tickets, please click here.

Tell me where you’re from and how you wound up in New York City?
I’m from the south of France. I was born in Bordeaux, but I grew up for 14 years in northern Germany near Hamburg. When I was 16 I moved back to France and decided to go to cooking school. I spent two years cooking at two different restaurants one a Michelin star and the other a brasserie.

When I was 18 I got an opportunity to move to Paris to work for a famous chef, Gerard Bérranger, who was designated a Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Five years I stayed with him. I was a catering chef and did a lot of competitions. At this time I started to get more involved in charcuterie and all the charcuterie was very interesting.

One day I got a call from Daniel Boulud. He asked me if I wanted to move to New York City to do the charcuterie program for all of his restaurants. I called him back the next day and said yes. I was with Daniel almost 7 years. We started out at Bar Boulud with a very small charcuterie program one butcher, one charcutier, and me. In 2011 we opened a 22,000-square-foot prep kitchen. We were going through 5,000 pounds of pork a week.

As a Queens guy I’m fascinated that you live in Astoria. How long have you been there? Do you have any favorite restaurants or shops?
I’ve been living there for four years. I like Astoria Bier & Cheese on Broadway. They have nice cheese. I also like The Strand for brunch.

Do you like to cook at home?
Sometimes. I like to do a lot of classics. Last night I made onion soup. I like to cook some meat, like a nice ribeye. If it was up to me I would have charcuterie every night, but my wife would kill me.

(more…)

Marani's dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

Marani’s dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.

As far as this food writer is concerned Marani, a kosher Georgian restaurant in Rego Park, is one of the most unique spots around. For one thing it has both a meat kitchen and a dairy kitchen. The downstairs dairy kitchen with a selection of decadent Georgian cheese pies known as khachapuri is a point of fascination for me. Upstairs find kebabs, stews, and many other Georgian specialties, including khinkali, giant soup dumplings filled with beef and lamb. My friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club, were equally impressed with Marani that’s why we’ve decide to have our next dinner there on Weds., June 22 at 7 p.m.  Marani’s owner Ana Epremashvili was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.

So tell me about the restaurant. When did it open? What made you guys decide to open it? We opened the restaurant in 2013, we serve authentic Georgian cuisine with a kosher twist and influences. We are the only establishment to have both meat and dairy under one roof in New York City. We did not think it would be an authentic representation of Georgian cuisine without the dairy, so we were happy to get approval once all the separate kitchen requirements were met.

We try to keep the kitchen modern and exciting with reinventing of the traditional dishes, as well as sticking to authentic recipes. We felt there was a void of authentic ethnic cuisines in the kosher world, when you are kosher it is common to have Japanese sushi, steak and Israeli food all in one restaurant and none of it is authentic or any good. Only lately there have been restaurants that stick to their roots, and we are happy to be a part of that trend.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.

The family style menu for the upcoming Queens Dinner Club is pretty exciting—khinkali dumplings, lula kebabs, beef stew, herring and more—tell me what inspired it?
We are excited to showcase the diversity of our menu and introduce people to our flavors. We also find it important for people to understand what it means for a restaurant to be kosher and what is involved in washing greens and specific ways of butchering, once people find out what it really means, they feel more comfortable patronizing kosher establishments. (more…)

04/27/16 11:33pm
Chef Viko Ortega is a chef's chef.

Chef Viko Ortega is a chef’s chef.

One of the first places I lived in Queens was Woodside. Walking Roosevelt Avenue to hit Thai places, Filipino spots, and taco trucks turned me on to the delicious diversity of food that makes the borough my favorite place to live, eat, and play. There’s one place I never frequented in all my time in Woodside though, La Flor, a cafe restaurant helmed by journeyman Chef Viko Ortega. I only just got around to meeting Chef Viko and trying his wonderful nuanced dishes. I was mightily impressed by his cooking. As were my friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of  Queens Dinner Club. That’s we’ve decided to have Chef Viko cook our next dinner Mexico Meets France and Italy via Roosevelt Ave. which takes Tuesday May 17, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Chef Viko was kind enough to take some time away from the kitchen to answer seven questions.

How did you get into cooking?
I started baking when I was 13 years old in my hometown of Puebla, Mexico. In 1987 when I was 21 the main reason I came here was that I was tired of baking. So I came here and figured out that the only way to make decent money was back to the kitchen. I started doing pizza and pastry and salads. I cooked at dozens of restaurants including Larry Forgione’s An American Place. I can’t get away from baking though. The starter I use to make all the breads at La Flor is 24 years old.

Atlantic salmon with potato gallettes.

Atlantic salmon with potato gallettes.

How would you characterize your cooking at La Flor?
I would say it’s a combination of everything I learned. I mix Italian, French, Mexican—that’s one of my favorites—a little bit of Asian. So it’s kind of fusion and I just love food. The dishes that you’re going to find here you’re not going to find anywhere else, I just love to play. It’s me. (more…)

03/29/16 11:10am
Tangra Peter Lo

Peter Lo whipping up Singapore chow mein in the kitchen of Tangra Masala.

Indian-Chinese, with its fiery palate of ginger, garlic, green chilies and soy, used to be one of my favorites, but for about five years my love affair for one of the world’s original fusion cuisines was doused by waves of regional Chinese, Thai, and Uzbek food. I’ve been away from my old flame, Tangra Masala for far too long. It took a chef buddy, Jonathan Forgash, to reintroduce me to one of Queens most vibrant and delicious cuisines. And in so doing he introduced me to the man who is unquestionably the Godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine in Queens, Chef Peter Lo. Chef Lo took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about the hallmarks of his cuisine as well as the upcoming Queens Dinner Club.

Where are you from originally and how did you learn to cook?
I’m from Calcutta. When I came to this country in 1984 I used to work part time in a restaurant. I really got fascinated seeing the way food was cooked and prepared. I liked the system. Back home my mother had an Indian-Chinese restaurant. She’s an excellent cook. Gradually I got to love cooking food, a friend used to say, “Why don’t you open a restaurant? You know you cook good food.” So that’s how I got to opened this restaurant in 2001. (more…)

01/13/16 11:09pm

Esther Choi’s grandmother taught her to love cooking and eating Korean food. She’s been in the restaurant business since she was 14. She also loves Korean food in Queens whether Geo Si Gi’s pork stew or Sik Gaek’s live octopus as you can see in the above video from our friends at Find. Eat. Drink. As chef and owner of Mokbar, a bustling noodle shop in Chelsea Market, Choi is one busy lady, so I’m grateful she took the time to answer 7 Questions.

What inspired you to open Mokbar? What does the name mean?
I felt the need to speak for Korean food. It can be more than just Korean BBQ like most Americans think. There are so many different special flavors and dishes in Korean cuisine. I wanted to show Korean flavors in a different light, which is why I decided to go with Korean ramen. The name was inspired from a term ‘mokbang’ which is a famous phenomena in Korea where people watch other people eat food. I actually thought it was hilarious and love watching it myself as well. Mok means to eat, so it made sense to me: “Eat Bar.”

What’s in your fridge at home right now?
A lot of kimchi. A lot of gochujang and doenjang. And a lot of beer. These are staples in my fridge and I feel really bad when it’s not filled with these items.  (more…)

07/06/15 11:55am
ZHICAY1

Alfonso Zhicay brought farm to table cuisine to Woodside.

As someone who’s been eating in Queens for more than 15 years I can safely say that I’ve never encountered a restaurant quite like Casa del Chef, an Ecuadorean-owned farm to table bistro around the corner from Filipino fast-food purveyor Jollibee. The chef in question is Alfonso Zhicay, who made his bones at places like Bouley and Union Pacific, and worked with Dan Barber for many years. I’m so very honored Chef Zhicay will be cooking alongside two other Queens culinary superstars Huge Dufour and Danny Brown at The Catskills Comes to Queens on August 1. Zhicay was kind enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer seven questions, including the accidental road to chefdom.

I’m so honored to have you participating in The Catskills Comes to Queens. Tell me about the dish you’ll be preparing August 1.
It’s a seasonal favorite with our customers that combines savory and sweet: braised short ribs -cooked for 10 hours with lots of tamarind, fruit chutneys, Madeira wine and bay leaves.

What inspired you to open Casa del Chef?
For many years I have been working with wonderful chefs in world-class restaurants. I have been looking for the right opportunity to open my own place where I can fully express my skills and passions in a cozy neighborhood setting.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
There are so many, but a few of my favorites are sherry wine vinegar, basil oil lemon dressing, and of course fresh vegetables. (more…)

04/09/15 12:22pm
EDCOTTON1

Sotto 13’s Ed Cotton and friend.

The first time I met Ed Cotton, executive chef of Sotto 13, he showed me how to make a turducken, a rather involved process that clearly demonstrated the second-generation chef’s love of all things charcuterie. In addition to being an expert charcuterer, pizza man, and pasta maker Cotton’s an L.I.C. guy and I am happy to announce that he will be cooking at The Catskills Comes to Queens. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy sked to answer 7 Questions Ed!

How did you become a chef?
I became a chef because of my father. I found what he did for a living very fascinating. I must have been five or so. It was interesting seeing cooks chop, cut and prepare things. That looked so fun to me.

What’s your favorite thing about being at the helm of Sotto 13?
One of my favorite things about being at the helm is that we have such a small kitchen and staff, so it’s very easy to talk to my staff. I can show them stuff and talk to them whenever because there’s nowhere to hide.

So let me get this straight. You’re making rabbit mortadella hot dogs for The Catskills Comes to Queens? How in the world did you come up with that idea?
Yes, I’m going to call them morty dogs. I love making all charcuterie, sausages, terrines, and all that stuff. We currently make rabbit mortadella for one of our wood-fired pizzas, so I wanted to take it in another direction. So that’s when I decided to make a rabbit mortadella hot dog. The garnishes won’t be as traditional as a normal dog but it will complement it for sure. (more…)