An Interview with John Tesar and Spoon's New Pastry Chef, David Collier

Categories: Interviews

Has being on Top Chef been good or bad for your restaurant?
Tesar: Both. It's a classic example of something that you shouldn't do, but turns out to be a great experience. It exposes one of life's great lessons:People will only take what they want from the situation.

In the course of conversation Tesar mentions young chefs moving around kitchens.

How long do you think a chef needs to be at one kitchen before they're ready to move on?
Tesar: There are some people that are like savants. They stage in a great kitchen somewhere and after a year are able to duplicate what they've seen and are truly inspired. Then they go somewhere and they do great.

I started as a chef when I was 18, and I'm still a chef at 55. I've made a lot of mistakes and I've had a lot of triumphs in my life. Those are the things that you can't duplicate or take from someone else. You have to live through them. You have to build a body of work.

And where you work has to do with so many variables. Rent could be too high and you can't afford to operate. I think you just have to have traction in your vision as a chef and keep plugging away at it. If you have a long run, God bless you. If not, it's OK.

The time between reinvention and the actuality of the invention is a lot of hard work.

(I laugh a little) Most of that work is done in dark rooms. Some soul-searching, huh?
You need to be one step ahead. You have to have your next plan on the table. Some things you have no control over. The public gets it and they make what they want of it. A year later you open a restaurant and, boom, you're on the cover of magazines again and on TV shows. It's ridiculous, but it's all part of the ride. It's all part of the ride [He says a little slower and calmer.] What matters is that you put food on a plate, people get to know you, they understand your passion, which is what you want from a chef in a restaurant. Not... fluff. The world is full of fluff.

David, will you have any fluff on the dessert menu?
Collier: No. It's fluff-free.

That seems like a conflict of interest for a pastry chef.
Tesar: (Laughing) Yes, we take this stuff too seriously and sometimes we have to laugh at it.

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