Despite a few of the personal travails Todd English has had this past fall, no one can doubt that the restaurateur has become a bit of a legend in the food world (whether it’s for being a ‘bad boy’ or not).
English has more than dipped his toes in restaurants, books, entrepreneurship and television, and we were curious about his food habits, trends he’s loving and hating, the people he admires outside of food and of course, where he eats when traveling the world…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
A good food day is when the markets are bursting. I love to head to Union Square Market, and browse through what has just been pulled from the ground or plucked from the vine or tree – gorgeous vine ripe heirloom or Jersey beefsteak tomatoes, incredibly juicy peaches, greens bursting with nutrients and chlorophyll, and luscious beets earthy and bold. Spending an afternoon preparing a delicious meal with family and friends, enjoying great acoustic guitar music, and a bottle of Whispering Angel rosé is the perfect New York City food afternoon for me.
What can be seen in all of your spaces that screams ‘Todd?’
Big bold flavors and common ingredients in uncommon ways.
Would you like to get more involved in competitive food TV? Why or why not?
For me, I played sports for competition. My whole childhood and adolescent years were spent in competition, and the restaurant business is super competitive. Cooking is an art, not a competition. It’s like pitting artists against each other to see who can create the best painting – it’s way too subjective. Some parts that I do like about competitive cooking shows are that they do show the difficulty of preparing food and what it takes to endure and overcome the pressures of cooking.
How has food TV changed for better or for worse?
For better, I think the shows present viewers with a true perspective of what it’s like to be a chef: the process of creating under pressure, the pressures of the business, and the rewards too. But on the downside, the shows can be misleading to viewers – cooking is a life-long vocation, and winning the contest is just the first step in that long culinary journey.
Your one piece of advice to young chefs…
Always stay true to who you are.
Your favorite trend in food right now…
Spice, ethnic flavors, and authenticity.
Your least favorite trend in food right now…
Still using truffle oil on everything.
How has the industry changed since you started?
Tremendously. When I got into the business over thirty years ago, it wasn’t cool to be a chef. There were no “celebrity chefs,” and there was very little food knowledge throughout the public. There’s now so much more attention and awareness to what we are eating and where our food is coming from, and we are finally becoming more responsible and conscious about our food choices. People are trying more than ever to make healthy food decisions for themselves and their families. I love the excitement and enthusiasm of the food culture in our nation!
Words to cook by…
You’re only as good as your last meal, so cook with love and give it everything you’ve got.
Parallels between food and fashion…
Trends come and go, but we are not always reinventing the wheel. As in fashion, food is often subject to the trend of the moment: some are completely new, and some come around again.
A go-to weeknight recipe in three easy steps…
Spaghetti tossed with fresh chopped tomato, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan.
Where do you love to travel? What won’t you travel without?
Anywhere along the Mediterranean. I typically don’t travel without a good pair of running shoes, so I can try to burn calories after sampling all the fantastic local cuisine.
Who is someone you admire outside of the food industry and why?
Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, and others like them: all creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and great philanthropists. And Nelson Mandela, because of his bravery and perseverance against all odds.
What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black,’ in fashion, what’s ‘the new potato’ in food right now?
Ginger is the new garlic.
*Todd English, photographed at the Todd English Food Hall at the Plaza in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann.