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The Interview: Chef Mark Simmons

The Interview: Chef Mark Simmons


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After making waves on Top Chef, chef Mark Simmons is now running an under-the-radar Brooklyn restaurant that's become a neighborhood gem.

Born and raised on a sheep farm in the town of Invercargill, New Zealand, his interest in cooking developed at a young age. In order to learn as much as he could about global cuisine, he traveled around the world, working in kitchens in countries including Australia and Japan before settling in the United States.

In 2008, chef Simmons appeared on Top Chef season four, set in Chicago, and shortly afterward he settled in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. After serving as head chef in a couple of neighborhood restaurants, in August 2011 he opened up a restaurant of his own in the neighborhood, called Kiwiana.

Specializing in the cuisine of his native New Zealand, the restaurant has since become a local gem. One of the only authentic Kiwi restaurants in the city, the focus is on high-quality ingredients and New Zealand-inspired fare, and the menu includes smoked and pickled Green Lip mussels, manuka honey and Marmite-braised baby back ribs, rack of New Zealand lamb, and the traditional New Zealand lamb burger, topped with pickled beets and a sunny-side up egg.

The Daily Meal: What was your first restaurant industry job?

Mark Simmons: I started off washing dishes.

TDM: When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it’s well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?

MS: A clean dining room, clean and attentive staff, and a clean kitchen.

TDM: Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?

MS: It hurts my soul to cook venison loin well-done. I've often talked customers out of ordering "veno" well-done, so I didn’t have to go through the torment.

TDM: If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, who would it be?

MS: That would have to be Chef from South Park. He cooks with soul.

TDM: What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?

MS: Opening Kiwiana.

TDM: What is the most transcendental dining experience you’ve ever had?

MS: There have been individual dishes that have made me emotional. One recently was a cheese course at Jean George. It took me back to my childhood.

TDM: Are there any foods you will never eat?

MS: I'll try anything once.

TDM: Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how interesting the restaurant industry can be?

MS: I Dream of Sushi is a documentary that accurately describes the passion and dedication required to make our craft successful.

Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.


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Ribs Go Kiwi

Mark Simmons, the chef at Kiwiana, is obsessed with the idea of local ingredients.

For him, though, "local" signifies a sheep farm in the closest city to Antarctica, on the most southern tip of New Zealand, where he spent his childhood. And his favorite ingredients--horopito, manuka honey and Marmite--are a long way from Park Slope, folks.

The horopito--a New Zealand pepper shrub--is massaged into the skin of a buttermilk-fried chicken ($16) that puts Brooklyn's never-ending Southern-fried versions to shame. Deliciously astringent smoked and pickled Green Lip mussels ($8) come neatly packed in a Mason jar alongside sourdough bread and house-churned butter for slathering.

But it's the manuka honey-and-Marmite-braised baby back ribs ($17) that left us flabbergasted. We're not fans of smearing Marmite, the sticky, yeasty spread, on our morning toast, so we approached the ribs with a dose of skepticism.

It turns out that Marmite takes on new life when it's braised with dark, floral manuka honey and anise, ginger and cinnamon (click here for the recipe).

Add these ingredients to your shopping cart (Marmite and manuka honey are now widely available at Whole Foods, Zabar's, Kalustyan's and Fairway stores) and you'll be singing Marmite's transformative properties too.


Top Chef’s Mark Simmons Reminds Customers That ‘Immigrants Make America Great’

Top Chef alum Mark Simmons is reminding his customers that immigrants are key to both America and their dining experience.

Simmons, who runs Kiwiana restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, has been printing a political message on his customer’s receipts. A line at the bottom now reads, “Immigrants make America great (they also cooked your food and served you today).” NBC News contributor Mary Emily O’Hara tweeted a photo of her Kiwiana receipt, and the image racked up nearly 100,000 Retweets over two days.

“We were just looking for a place that wouldn’t have a long wait, and gave it a shot,” she told CNN. “When the check came I was surprised to see the statement at the bottom.”

Simmons came in ninth in the fourth season of Bravo’s Top Chef. As one could probably gather, he told the New York blog DNAinfo that he added the note in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order to bar refugees and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries.

“I added that message to the bottom of the receipts recently, to remind ourselves [and] our customers that immigrants are quite often the backbone of the hospitality industry,” Simmons said.

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"Immigrants cooked your food": Top Chef competitor adds political note to receipts

A New York restaurant owner and “Top Chef” alum has found a subtle way to remind his customers of the integral role that immigrants play in the daily lives of Americans.

When customers of Kiwiana restaurant in Brooklyn receive their bill, they’ll also be receiving a small message at the bottom of their receipt:

“Immigrants make America great (they also cooked your food and served you today),” reads the note.

It’s a message that comes directly from Mark Simmons, the restaurant’s Kiwi chef and owner. According to CNN, Simmons, who appeared on the cooking show “Top Chef,” moved to the United States 10 years ago.

Bravo notes that Simmon’s message only came to the public’s attention when local journalist Mary Emily O’Hara had brunch at the restaurant and posted her receipt on Twitter.

Simmons added the line to his receipts in response to Trump’s recent ban on new immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He told CNN that, so far, the response has been primarily positive.


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But Jacky Colliss Harvey from the Royal Collection Trust, which is publishing the new book, said: ‘We believe President Eisenhower liked them because they were close to American breakfast pancakes and they made him feel at home.’

She added: ‘The idea for the book started with the garden parties and afternoon tea. We had a long list of recipes but had to weed them out if they were too complicated or ingredients too expensive or difficult to source.

‘Tea is the quintessential British meal. We still follow the tradition that savoury precedes sweet, and that wholesome is to be consumed before the indulgent, but the perfect tea table has to include a combination of both.’

How to make treats like a monarch

In a 1959 letter to President Eisenhower, the Queen gave a recipe for enough drop scones, also known as Scotch pancakes, to feed 16 people

2 tablespoons unrefined caster sugar

1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons cream of tartar

100g clarified unsalted butter

In a bowl, sieve flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and sugar. Add milk and egg, whisk until smooth then add warm melted butter.

Pass through a sieve to remove lumps. If necessary, thin with more milk. It should be a dropping consistency, thick enough to retain shape on a griddle.

Heat griddle (or non-stick frying pan) over medium heat, and grease with clarified butter. Using a spoon or ladle, pour batter on griddle.

Cook one side then flip with a palette knife to cook the other. Do not let them over-cook. Serve warm with butter and preserves.

The cookery book includes recipes for carrot cake and another garden-party favourite, Victoria sponge, named after the Queen’s great-great-grandmother

Palace’s Perfect victoria sponge

150g unrefined caster sugar

150g unsalted butter, softened

150g self-raising flour, sieved

½ teaspoon of vanilla essence

150g unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4). Grease tins with butter and line bottom with baking paper.

In a bowl, cream sugar, vanilla essence and butter until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs, a little at a time to avoid curdling. Fold sieved flour until combined.

Divide the mix evenly between tins and smooth. Place on the middle shelf of oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly before turning out on a wire rack.

For the buttercream, cream butter with sugar and seeds from split vanilla pod until pale and fluffy.

Once cakes have cooled, spread a layer of buttercream on top of the first cake, then add a thick layer of jam, before placing second cake on top of jam. Press down gently and dust top with icing sugar.

The recipes in the book were selected by Royal chef Mark Flanagan and Royal pastry chef Kathryn Cuthbertson from the dishes regularly offered by the Queen at private functions and to the 30,000 annual guests at Buckingham Palace garden parties.

They include recipes for carrot cake and another garden-party favourite, Victoria sponge, named after the Queen’s great-great-grandmother.

Mr Flanagan, who has worked for the Queen for 15 years, has previously said: ‘At any large event we are always conscious of trying to make sure we uphold people’s expectations when they come to Buckingham Palace. For a lot of people, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

‘Certainly from the kitchen side of things we try to encourage everybody to make sure nobody goes away saying, “Wasn’t it amazing… but the food wasn’t up to much” – that’s not what we’d like.’

Savoury recipes in the book, whose proceeds will help conserve artworks owned by the Queen, include brioche crayfish cocktail buns, egg mayonnaise on toast points, wild mushroom vol-au-vents, quail scotch eggs and miniature game pies.

Meanwhile, sweet treats include Yorkshire rhubarb creme brulee tartlets, cherry madeleines and the poshest Jammie Dodgers most people will come across: sables aux confiture. More exclusive recipes from Royal Teas will be published in The Mail on Sunday’s You magazine on May 7 – the day before the book is published, priced £14.95, or £12.95 via the Royal Collection Trust.


Houston’s Rock Star Chefs Leave Their Restaurants for a Wine Dinner to Remember

Drake Leonards, Franelle Rogers, Philippe Verpiand, Luis Roger (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

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I t’s difficult to imagine three rock star chefs leaving their kitchens on a busy Thursday night in order to cook a meal for the throng filling the ballroom of Hotel ZaZa in the Museum District. Yet, there they were — Eunice’s Drake Leonards, Étoile Cuisine et Bar’s Philippe Verpiand and BCN/MAD’s Luis Roger.

The restaurants’ kitchen loss was our gain when this trio, under stewardship of chef chairman Mark Cox, joined forces with Hotel ZaZa’s pastry chef Kristy Quach to create a four-course gourmet dinner that annually bests every chef-driven charity fundraiser in the city. On this 10th anniversary of the T.J. Martel Foundation Best Cellars Houston dinner, a new record of more than $258,000 was raised for the Physician-Scientist Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The glory of this evening is equally based on the wine hosts, who delve into their private cellars, thoughtfully pairing wines with each of the menu offerings. Our table, hosted by the event chair Franelle Rogers and wine hosts chair Robert Sakowitz, was treated to wealth of extraordinary vino.

Wines were paired with chef Verpiand‘s seared yellowfin tuna served with eggplant-tomato confit Napoleon, zucchini mousseline and balsamic caramelized onions chef Roger‘s roasted quail stuffed with a heavenly marriage of onions, porcini mushrooms, and foie gras served with celery root purée, sautéed artichokes and glazed salsify chef Leonards’ grilled beef tenderloin accompanied by farro, lobster, black truffles and butternut squash and chef Quach’s symphony of desserts that included a a marble chocolate globe encasing a vanilla savarin tart filled with mango mousse and chocolates, an all-chocolate tart topped with a dipped key lime pie bite, and a waffle-dipped chocolate bite and chocolate shells filled with raspberry mousse.

Once again, the energized and booming Shawn Parr, nationally syndicated radio host, served as emcee and auctioneer stirring guests to dig deep into their pockets.

Also tradition with this dinner hosted by the Nashville-based foundation is a performance by big-name country entertainers. Pat Green was the star on this evening and the moment he entered through the back of the ballroom, fans surrounded him for selfies. Following Green’s set, guests moved to the hotel’s Ultimate Ransom Room for the rocking after-party that featured award- winning songwriters Rob Hatch and Justin Wilson.

PC Scene: Honorary chairs Carolyn Faulk, Cathy and David Herr, Jeanie and Jim Janke, and Dean Putterman plus Julie and Stephen Chen, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Margaret and TJ Farnsworth, Guy Stout, Mark Bermann, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Suzanne Duin Stewart and Michael Stewart, Cathy Brock, Rose Cullen, Dale Robertson, Carol and Bill Simmons, Chantell Preston, Norelle and Brian Becker, Cindy and Chip Beaver, and Jennifer and Nick Altman.


The Interview: British Airways Head Chef Mark Tazzioli

From cold snacks and sandwiches to afternoon tea or a hot three course meal, British Airways’ customers always enjoy something to tuck into onboard. But most have no idea how the items served on board are chosen, prepared, developed or what the biggest trends are. Chef Mark Tazzioli, based at the airline’s headquarters at Heathrow Terminal 5, explains how much our taste buds change in the sky, talks us through the foods you can’t serve at 30,000ft and lifts the lid on the airline’s most popular meal…and no, it isn’t chicken!

Is it a myth that food tastes different in the sky?

No, it’s true! In the air you lose on average 30 percent of the ability to taste so we do a lot of work focussing on every individual ingredient that we pick. We look for suppliers who will give us great provenance and we can work with and develop ideas with. For example, with our salmon this year, we went for a special dry cure of salmon which was full of flavour. My team has completed a lot of work on the sauces for the same reason, to achieve more depth of flavour and more body in the air. We’ve worked a lot on different recipes to make sure what we end up with is the right flavour of sauce and viscosity.

How many dishes are available at any one time on British Airways?

There are 250 dishes on a cycle in all classes – but throughout the seasons we’re constantly developing and refining dishes. We have kitchens in every city we fly into where chefs develop ideas and feed back into me. We change the menu four times a year, so we change all the route specific dishes, all the standard menus and the afternoon teas.

Do all flights serve the same menu?

No, not at all – we cater for around 18 regional menus, such as for China and India. We spend a long time making sure our recipes are authentic and pay close attention to sourcing the right ingredients and concentrate on what our customers want. For example, with Japan we spend a lot of money on the rice and even put the brand on the menu so our customers know we’ve bought the right ingredients. On flights from the UK, we try to use British produce as much as possible, so if we’re doing cheeses we’ll use something like Croxton, for lamb we use English lamb and in First we use Aberdeen Angus beef. We’d love to put English asparagus on the Club menu but we struggle to find suppliers that can produce the 80/90 kilos a day we would get through.

How much involvement do crew have in cooking meals?

Originally in Club World, our business class product, everything was sent out in a kit and heated up and all crew did was take the foil off. Now, in Club World, British Airways is spending a lot of time and money on new plates and ensures the food is warmed up and plated by the crew, like in a restaurant. We make what we call ‘chef’s chats’, which are step-by-step guides on how to put the dish together. The guide includes pictures so the crew know how to present every dish to ensure consistency. Right now, we’re doing a lot of work to understand what our cabin crew struggle with to ensure we aren’t getting over-elaborate with our future dish ideas. We can’t give the crew too much to do or the service will last hours!

How do you come up with new ideas for foods on board?

We do lots of workshops so we’ll come in for a day, pick a subject and spend the whole shift concentrating on it. This year we wanted to focus on two things in particular: presentation and taste. Presentation has come a long way from where it was 18 months ago – and we’re working and developing that all the time. We’ve worked a lot on taste, all sorts of details on what we’re buying. It’s important to us because it makes a difference in the air. The team here also worked a lot on vegetables this year. Boiled veg, especially at altitude, is going to lose a lot of its taste. All our vegetables are marinated so they has more flavour and depth and are not just a roast carrot – it’s a roast carrot with cardamom or other spices, just so it brings everything to life a little bit more.

Do you test new dishes in the air first?

Yes, we do sometimes, but most of the time because of our experience it isn’t necessary. We know how tastes change in the air and what flavours do and don’t work well. We also really value our customer feedback and look at what dishes are most popular in the sky. We have a new device called the viscosity meter which measures how much a sauce will run, depending on time and heat, so we can test them first on the ground.

What is British Airways’ signature dish in the skies?

Our traditional signature British afternoon tea, which is served in Club World, includes sandwiches, cakes and Cornish clotted cream and English strawberry jam. We also offer a similar afternoon tea service in World Traveller.If you go to any hotel or tea shop in the UK, that’s what you’ll get, so it’s only right that we serve it on our flights!

What are the biggest trends in terms of dishes served on board?

About 10 percent of our total dishes served are ‘special meals’, where a customer has a particular dietary requirement and pre-orders a meal to suit their needs. We offer a range of different options on board including gluten-free, diabetic, lactose-intolerant, vegan, halal, kosha and a child’s meal. Of those, gluten-free is by far the biggest climber in terms of popularity. I think it’s becoming more of a lifestyle-choice for some people.

Which country’s dishes will change most in the coming years?

I think India. A certain age group are still looking for authentic Indian cuisine, but in the next three or four years the age demographic will change slightly and so will the taste. In India now, the younger generation are far more into Indo-Chinese food and looking at other cultures and flavours so, at some point our menus will have to mirror that. It’s our job to get that timing right.

What is the most popular meal on board?

On our transatlantic routes it’s definitely steak. It’s also the most pre-ordered item.

How far ahead do British Airways create new menus?

We develop our menus six months ahead, so we work very closely with procurement to keep an eye on the markets and to get the best products for the best price we can. We completely change the menu four times a year for seasonal changes and within that season we may change 50 percent of those dishes within those three months. We’re currently evaluating to see how much we’re changing and how much we need to change.

You can now pre-order your in-flight meal between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight departure to guarantee your choice once on board. This service is available at no extra cost for many of our flights from London Heathrow, when you’re travelling in First, Club World and World Traveller Plus. Furthermore, in World Traveller you can now pay for a wider choice of indulgent meals from the online menu between 30 and 24 hours before your flight.


Tasting Table NYC: Manuka-and-Marmite-Braised Baby Back Ribs

1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large grill pan over high heat and sear the ribs until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
2. In a medium saucepot set over high heat, heat the vegetable oil until almost smoking. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon sticks and the bay leaf and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the vegetables are soft and aromatic, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock, palm sugar, manuka honey, Marmite and Champagne vinegar and season with salt. Simmer for 3 minutes, then remove the braising liquid from the heat.
4. Preheat the oven to 325°. Place the ribs in a roasting pan and pour the reserved braising liquid over top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for 3 hours, shaking the pan every hour or so. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
5. Serve immediately or cool the ribs in the liquid and refrigerate overnight. The following day, scrape off the fat, strain the liquid and serve the liquid as a sauce for the reheated ribs.


Watch the video: Sunjay Kakar speaks to Matthew Freud (June 2022).