Ilan Hall has always been a culinary bad boy. Between battling (and winning) with Marcel in season 2 of Top Chef, to premiering his show Knife Fight on Esquire Network to having a tattoo of a new potato (we kid you not) somewhere on his body not to be named, Hall’s part of that generation of rebel chefs we all know and love. He recently expanded his LA restaurant concept The Gorbals to Williamsburg, and we were happy about his arrival. Hall told us why Top Chef improved his posture, and why he must break Bobby Flay…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Wake up to the sound of my wife making me eggs and realize that she’s made them for herself. And after she’s done eating, she asks if I’d like some, too. (Just kidding). I love when she makes me breakfast. Then when I get to work, there is a spur of the moment wine tasting. Then I’m suddenly transported to San Sebastián, Spain where I eat anchovies on toast, with eggs and caviar. I walk down the street and all of the sudden, I’m in Hong Kong and there is a bowl of congee with dried pork sitting on an outside stall that has my name on it with a bow. Then I gracefully backflip into the air and land into my parents’ kitchen where my father has just roasted a chicken with lots of garlic, but no starch, because them old people be trippin’. And when I go to sleep, next to my nightstand is a perfectly crispy bowl of French fries with mayonnaise to dip. Then, there is a bowl of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream floating in mid-air in front of me. That’s my ideal food day.
Could you tell us a bit about The Gorbals?
The Gorbals is a neighborhood in Glasgow where my father was born. I’ve taken that name and turned it into a restaurant where I serve oddball food that is delicious and hopefully, sometimes thought-provoking.
How did winning Top Chef end up affecting where you are now?
Top Chef really helped me with my posture, taught me not to mumble, and to always answer questions in full sentences. It also gave a jump-start to my career to where I am today. It was altogether a fantastic experience.
What do you think of food TV in general?
I am doing food TV as host of Knife Fight on The Esquire Network! I love food TV. I love it all. I think it brings great attention to what we as chefs and restaurateurs do and really brought awareness to the masses about food culture.
How has food TV changed, for better or for worse, since you were on Top Chef?
Food TV has really blown up in the past few years. Some shows are better than others. But in the end I think it’s all good for the industry, especially if it makes people realize where their food is coming from.
Biggest mistakes by young chefs…
Not dedicating enough time to the craft. It’s a shame that many are not willing to put in the time and the effort to improve themselves. Many want to be big names and run big operations before they’re ready, before they deserve it.
What’s your cooking philosophy in general?
Cook with your whole body. Use all of your senses. Make sure to love the ingredients that are going into your food, at every level.