Seamus Mullen, Chef/Owner of Tertulia and Author of "Hero Food"

Seamus Mullen, Chef/Owner of Tertulia and Author of Hero Food

It's not everyday we get to hang out with celebrated chefs, so when the opportunity to visit Seamus Mullen in his own home presented itself, we jumped at the chance. We'll be the first to admit going through a bit of a fangirl moment - after all, he's spent time in some of Spain's most renowned kitchens; has competed on The Next Iron Chef; and has a laundry list of celebrities passing through Tertulia, his first solo restaurant here in New York. He quickly revealed, however, just how grounded he is, always letting his ingredients take center stage (and demonstrating how very little can't be improved upon with a few shavings of buttery jamón). Seamus is a true devotee to his craft and we have no doubt it's his eagle eye for detail, evident in both his restaurant and well-appointed home, that makes him the great chef that he is. Get ready to be inspired.

Read on to learn how Seamus's love affair with Spain began and for an incredible - yet easy to replicate - recipe for truffle risotto. Plus, an opportunity to win a signed copy of his informative and beautiful book, Hero Food!

Hello, chef! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, the amazing journey you've taken from your upbringing in Vermont to Spain, the country that seems to have largely shaped your cooking style and aesthetic.

I grew up in rural Vermont, in a tiny little town called Vershire. I was never particularly good at school, but I did have a knack for languages, which my high school Spanish teacher picked up on. She encouraged me to go to Spain for a study abroad program, and that really opened my eyes to a whole new world that was out there. Somehow I ended up in Michigan at Kalamazoo College (otherwise known as the Ivy League of Michigan) but was soon back in Spain, I couldn't stay away. Fast forward a few years and many highly random jobs later (including, in no particular order: working at an internet startup, driving a bus and teaching Spanish at UPenn), my grandmother Mutti really encouraged me to take cooking seriously and turn it into my career. My restaurant path took me from San Francisco (Mecca) to New York (Tabla) to Spain (Mugaritz, Alkimia and Abac), and back to New York (Crudo, Suba). In 2006, I opened Boqueria with a partner and in 2008 we opened Boqueria Soho. In 2010, I left Boqueria to pursue my own projects and I opened Tertulia in August 2011 - and here we are!

Huge congratulations on your first book, Hero Food, which focuses on the healing powers of foods you (re)discovered after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It seems many of these foods already fall within the realm of your cooking repertoire. How difficult was it to change your old diet to accommodate this new, more healthful one? What food do you miss most from your old life?

Thank you! It was certainly a labor of love... a very long labor of love, but it was all worth it. I am eternally grateful to my editor, Dorothy Kalins, and to one of my best friends, Colin Clark, who shot all the gorgeous photography.

Health and nutrition are, naturally, of great concern and importance to me. RA can be a very difficult disease to understand and cope with, and it's certainly exacerbated by a job that is as physically demanding as being a chef is. But at the same time, I'm very fortunate that my profession just so happens to be in a field that allows me to better understand my health and nutrition, and do something about it. What I've learned or realized along the way is that all too often we think of "food/cooking/cuisine" and "health" as two separate categories, but they are not mutually exclusive - in fact, they very much go hand in hand.

Hero Food is, first and foremost, a cookbook. Whether you pay much attention to nutrition or health or not, at the end of the day, it's a collection of delicious recipes that I hope you'll want to make time and again. But my larger goal is to bridge the gap between the concept of "healthy" food and "delicious" food, and drive home the point that healthy food can be delicious, and vice versa.

It was a bit of a happy accident that I was already well-versed in the Mediterranean diet, which is rich with olive oil, fish, legumes, beans, etc. So I already had a leg up in terms of eating things that were good for me. More recently though, I've incorporated a few more changes to my diet, which have had a noticeable effect on how I feel. I've been reading a few pretty amazing books on health and nutrition that have really changed the way I think about food, such as Wheat Belly and Why We Get Fat. For example, I've cut out gluten from my diet, avoid sugars and too many carbohydrates, and increased my intake of protein and good fat, such as grass-fed butter. I do miss the occasional sandwich or slice of pizza, but overall, it hasn't been too tough of a transition.

(To learn a bit more about RA, visit the NIH site here.)

DIY copper pot rack created through the handiwork of chef Seamus

You've worked in some incredible kitchens and have quite a few celebrities among your fan base. Tell us: who's your favorite guest so far?

My favorite guest story would have to be when I cooked for Isabella Rossellini - she must have enjoyed it because afterwards she took my face in both hands and planted a big one, square on the kisser. With tongue, I might add.

With Tertulia, you're really opening up New Yorkers' perception of Spanish food beyond patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo. Other than drawing from your extensive time abroad, what else inspires you to create these fresh, innovative dishes?

You're exactly right, there is so much more to Spanish food than just tapas. Spanish food is still relatively underrepresented here in the U.S. - people know it mostly as tapas on one end of the spectrum, or the super avant-garde, El Bulli-end of the spectrum. But there is such a broad range of Spanish cuisine that is still unexplored, and that's what I'm trying to do here. In Spain it's called cocina de producto, or product-based cooking, where the ingredients are the real stars, and you do just enough with them to make them shine. I always say that I cook in the language of Spanish food - my food definitely has Spanish roots, and draws from the traditions I learned and embraced in Spain, but I am an American cook, cooking in New York.

As a professional chef, you must have a treasure trove of tricks up your sleeve - can you share a couple with us?

Definitely! Here are a few favorites:

When barbecuing, bury vegetables (eggplants, onions, peppers, etc.) directly in the coals. Let them roast in the intense heat of the coals until tender. Remove, let them cool, brush off the ash, peel and discard the exterior, and you're left with incredibly sweet, smoky, intensely flavored vegetables. You could also blacken eggplant/peppers in a dry cast iron pan slowly turning them until completely charred all the way around, for the same effect.

Embrace vinegar for finishing dishes - a couple of drops can balance the right amount of acidity and brightness in a stew, sauce, even a risotto. It's always good to have your workhorse vinegars, and then your finishing vinegars.

One last trick - one of the secrets to robustly flavored vegetarian cooking is having a rich, aromatic vegetable stock. Perhaps the greatest way to achieve really intense umami in your vegetable stock is to add dried shiitake mushrooms, in addition to aromatic veggies like carrots, onions, celery, or fennel.

What comfort dish do you and your wife, Lynn, like to make at home?

If we are cooking, we're big on one-pot meals at home - stews, risottos and the like. Easy and delicious! We are in and out of the restaurant so much and our schedules tend to be unpredictable, so it can be tricky to plan ahead or try to make anything too elaborate at home. And of course there are times where we cave and order in, in which case our go-to comfort food is Thai - specifically Pad See Ew noodles.

What is your biggest kitchen pet peeve?

My biggest kitchen pet peeve is not cleaning as you go! It's one of the most important lessons we learn as cooks. Especially in New York, where space is such a premium, both at home and in the restaurant. It helps you stay disciplined, organized and focused because you have to finish what you start, before moving on to the next step. It's my opinion that you're not finished cooking until you're finished cleaning. I love my wife dearly and she is a great cook, but sometimes it looks like a tornado hit our kitchen!

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

Probably our Lagioule steak knives that we received as a wedding gift. They are really beautiful and just the best quality. And of course, my collection of Japanese knives.

In terms of gadgets, I do love my VitaMix blender. It just leaves all other blenders behind in the dust. I use it to make all kinds of soups and purees, but I especially love it for making smoothies in the morning. I'm a big fan of green juices and smoothies - I have a favorite parsley-based recipe in my book - but lately I have been making these coffee smoothies. I've been following Dave Asprey's Bulletproof protocol. The Bulletproof smoothie is coffee, MCT oil and 2 TB of grass-fed butter. I know it doesn't sound that appetizing but it's actually quite good, and gives me great energy. In Tibet, sherpas have been doing this for years at high altitudes, using yak butter mixed with tea. Think of it as Tibetan tea with yak butter with the added advantage of the caffeine kick.

They are more of an appliance brand than gadgets per se, but I'm a huge fan of Breville; they make the best home kitchen appliances. Really smart, well-considered designs. I have their SmartGrilljuicer and oven, all equally awesome. My latest acquisition is the Breville burr coffee grinder. I'm a bit of a coffee junkie so I'm pretty excited to use this.

Also, never underestimate the value of a good old spoon! It's good for tasting, basting and making a point!

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

My top three would easily have to be sherry vinegar, good salt, and excellent olive oil. Those three relatively simple items, but of the best quality, make a tremendous difference in cooking. I love Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar made from the PX grape for rich braises and stews - it has a deep, sweet flavor and mild acidity - and Montegrato Fino sherry vinegar for finishing salads, vegetables or anything that requires a delicate pop of fruity acidity. I always have at least kosher salt, sea salt, and fleur de sel on hand. My preferred olive oil is Valderrama Arbequina or L'Estornell unfiltered Arbequina olive oil.

Grass-fed butter is something I've become hooked on recently. I've used it often before of course, but it wasn't until a few months ago that I learned just how good it is for you, nutritionally-speaking. People shy away from using too much butter, but grass-fed butter is actually extremely nutritious. Among other things, it's got Vitamins A, D, E and K, lots of antioxidants, and it's a great source of Omega 3s and 6s. It's great for everyone, and particularly for someone like me who deals with chronic inflammation.

I always have good quality anchovies around - Don Bocarte or Ortiz are both great brands. Anchovies are one of my favorite foods (in fact there is a whole chapter dedicated to them in my book). I get weird looks when I say that, but I am happy to report that people are starting to come around! I serve a dish at my restaurant Tertulia called Tosta Matrimonio - it's a duo of black and white anchovies on olive oil bread with slow-roasted tomato and sheep's milk cheese, drizzled with a little bit of aged balsamic vinegar. It's been on the menu since Day 1, and it's one of our most popular dishes - once people try it, they totally become anchovy converts! And for good reason - they are super flavorful, and are incredibly healthy and good for you. They pack a big punch, so a little bit goes a long way. At home, we find ways to use it all the time - we put them in salads, in scrambled eggs, etc. Trust me on this!

I don't always happen to have a leg of Ibérico ham laying around, but luckily, today I do! It is hands down the best ham in the world. When I don't have the world's best ham readily available at home, I do usually have a good selection of cured meats - chorizo, sausage, soppressata, etc.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of Brooklyn Roasting Company too! When we moved to Dumbo, we discovered it was just around the corner from us, and as it so happens, one of the cofounders, Emily Sheppard, used to work with me back in the day at Boqueria. Their coffee is really excellent, and I'm really proud of what she's done with the company and how it's grown.

As far as condiments go - ketchup and mustard, because I secretly love hot dogs, and Sriracha, because it's good on everything! Last but not least, I always keep a stash of emergency chocolate somewhere. Oh, and ice cream.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

Wylie Dufresne, for his out-of-the-box thinking and innovation. He looks at food as a logic problem that needs to be solved and comes up with a really unusual and unique point of view.

Jordi Vila, whom I used to work for at Alkimia. Jordi has expanded on the Catalan tradition that is his foundation, and has created a new Catalan cooking that is true to the flavors and ingredients of the past but integrates a lot of new influences. He's the guy that taught me to think about tradition but executing with impeccable technique. Elevate something humble to a completely new level just by considering how you prepare it.

On the personal tip, both of my grandmothers. Mutti, on my mom's side, is the one who really inspired and encouraged me to pursue cooking as a career, so I really have her to thank for where I am today. She attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris when she was young, and she introduced me to good technique at a young age. Meme, on my dad's side, was also instrumental in my culinary upbringing. My grandfather Proctor Mellquist was the editor-in-chief of Sunset Magazine for many years, so the two of them were really at the forefront of the California cuisine and lifestyle. I would visit them during the summers and was exposed to all sorts of incredible things at a young age such as truffles, foie gras and the most amazing coffee, which is probably what kicked off my caffeine habit; when other people were making Folgers, they had an Italian espresso maker and made Americanos in the morning and perfect frothy cappucinos in the afternoon.

Favorite restaurants, high and low?

Neta: this is one of our favorite new restaurants, just a few blocks away from Tertulia. They're doing some really amazing, inventive things there. And they make an incredible peanut butter ice cream.

Kyo Ya: Kaiseki is probably one of my favorite cuisines, and in New York, they do it best.

Pok Pok: Andy Ricker just kills it here. And I'm not just saying that because he's a friend of mine. His food here is so intensely flavorful and awesome, there's no other Thai place like it in New York. I could eat here every day.

Asiadog: I don't know why, but I just love hot dogs.

Locanda Verde: Consistently excellent, all the time.

Miss Lily's: Love their juice bar.

Favorite cookbooks?

This isn't a cookbook but I love Edible Selby. I love the way Todd Selby understands the whole package, how food, design, and aesthetic are all rolled into one experience. 

Hiroko Shimbo's Japanese Kitchen. For American cooks striving to understand Japanese cuisine, this is the quintessential book. It has all the traditional dishes and techniques.

I'm a huge fan of Olivier Roellinger. He was one of the first French chefs to eschew butter and cream in favor of delicate spice and vegetables. He truly captured the exotic flavors of far flung reaches of the world and brought it into his cuisine in a unique and beautiful way.

And without a doubt, Michel Bras' cookbook Essential Cuisine - it is the standard by which all food photography should be measured.

Just your average, everyday plugged-in New York couple ;)

A portion of Seamus's antique collection on display

Play out your last meal for us.

For my last meal, I'd kick it off with a bowl of heirloom tomatoes, Cantabrian anchovies, and fresh burrata, drizzled with Arbequina olive oil, 50-year old balsamic vinegar, and a fistful of fresh herbs. I'd follow that up with a huge bowl of Santa Barbara sea urchin with chilled dashi, fresh wasabi and yuba skin - I love sea urchin. Then, a few pieces of Toro sushi, shima aji tartare, Kobe beef carpaccio and white truffle risotto. For the grand finale, I'd have a plate of 48-month aged Ibérico ham from 5Js with a glass of Lopez de Heredia 2001 Rose wine. For dessert, two scoops of coffee gelato from il Laboratorio di Gelato and a Romeo y Julieta Churchill Cuban cigar. I think this feast would be most delicious somewhere in Paris, sitting alongside Picasso, Escoffier, Hemingway, Michelle Obama - and of course, my better half.

Whose pantries would you like to raid?

Juan Mari and Elena Arzak - they have probably the most insane catalogued spice collection I've ever seen.

Lior Lev Sercarz, from La Boite Biscuits & Spices. Here's a guy who spends all day, every day, thinking about spices, sourcing irreproachable spices, dreaming up spice blends - he is just amazing.

Yes, that would be an old school barber chair!


Wild Mushroom Risotto with Hen's Egg and Black Truffle

Serves 2

2 cups Arborio rice
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, cut into equal sized pieces
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoon dry white wine
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 free range eggs
Fresh black or white truffles (as much as you can afford and then a little extra!)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 ounces sliced Iberico ham

In a medium sized pot heat the stock up to a simmer, then turn off. In another medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the mushrooms a little bit at a time so as not to crowd the pot and to allow the mushrooms to brown evenly. Once they have browned, about three minutes, reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic and sweat for 1 minute, taking care to keep them from taking any color. Deglaze with the Champagne vinegar and add the rice.

Toast the rice, stirring to keep it from burning, for two minutes until the grains of rice begin to turn translucent. After 2 minutes, add the white wine and cook to allow the alcohol to evaporate, about 1 minute. Season lightly with kosher salt and with a ladle, add the stock a little at a time, stirring constantly in the same direction with a rubber spatula (this keeps you from crushing the grains of rice.) As the rice absorbs the stock, add a little bit more, taking care not to boil the rice. Once the rice is nearly fully cooked, about 18 minutes, season with fresh ground pepper and fold in the grated cheese. Cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and emulsify in the butter until creamy. The rice should be nice and creamy, but you should be able to see each individual grain.

Divide the rice into two warmed bowls, making a small indentation in the middle of the rice. Carefully separate the egg yolk from the white and set aside the white for another use. Nestle the yolk into the indentation in the rice and season with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil. Finish each dish with as many truffles and slices of Iberico ham as your budget allows. Eat right away!

To learn more about Chef Seamus Mullen, visit his website, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and if you're lucky enough to live in or around New York, be sure to drop by his gorgeous restaurant, Tertulia, where you can pick up signed copies of his photo-filled book, Hero Food!

Thanks, Seamus! We had risotto-filled dreams for a while after this. For your chance to win a signed copy of Hero Food, please leave us a comment below. You have until the last day of the month, Thursday, February 28, at 11:59pm/EST. Winner will be chosen at random - good luck!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Susy Schieffelin, Director of PR and Marketing, KGNY Restaurant Group

Susy Schieffelin, Director of PR and Marketing, KGNY Restaurant Group

The word exuberant doesn't fully capture Susy's energy. This girl is firing on all cylinders ALL the time, spreading her enthusiasm for all that she loves (great food, killer accessories, her precious pup) to all who surround her. It's no wonder she's gifted at what she does, heading up the press and marketing efforts behind one of the most renowned Austrian chefs in New York, Kurt Gutenbrunner. Susy epitomizes the ethos of working hard and playing harder, and when you see someone so utterly devoted to their work, you can't help but get a little swept up, too.

Read on for tips on how NOT to light your kitchen ablaze and to find out why Susy always got scolded in culinary school!

Hi Susy! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you landed such a great gig so early on in your career. 

I grew up in Greenwich, Conn., in a family that loves to cook. I was cooking eggs Benedict, spaghetti carbonara and Christmas cookies from scratch by the time I was five. It was just what we did! My senior year in high school, we had a class trip to the Culinary Institute of America and it opened my eyes to a career path that had not crossed my mind, and although I was already all set to attend the University of Virginia, I became determined to one day return to the CIA. When I graduated in May 2011, I prepared to finally attend culinary school - the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), not the CIA - in the fall. I learned so much during culinary school and had the most incredible experience.

As graduation approached, I explored many options in trying to figure out what I wanted to do. The more I looked, the more I became interested in doing public relations for restaurants. I was offered an internship at a well-known restaurant PR firm and, the day before I was about to accept, I got an email from Kurt Gutenbrunner's group (KGNY) inviting me in for an interview. I went in, not knowing what to expect, but from the minute I met the team and Chef Kurt himself, my gut told me that I had to have that job. The opportunity turned out to be absolutely perfect. Now, I have worked for six months as director of public relations and marketing for our group of five restaurants throughout the city. It is a big job, and I learn as I go every day!

When people ask me what I do, it is sometimes hard to explain because I wear many hats. We are a small group running five restaurants and everybody works together to make sure things run seamlessly. Generally, my job involves reaching out to the press and pitching stories, publicizing events and promotions that we hold, managing our social media (six Facebook and five Twitter accounts!), overseeing and always finding ways to improve customer relations - everything from Yelping, to replying to customer emails, to generally making opportunities to meet new people and spread the word about our restaurants. I also work on our branding and marketing, creating graphic designs for printed promotional materials. There are many fun perks, such as attending fabulous parties and dinners and even the James Beard Awards. But there are also long hours, stressful and unpredictable days, and a lot of pressure and responsibility. Nonetheless, I could not love my job more! I don’t get to cook as much as I would like to, but I do get to eat, talk about, photograph and generally enjoy amazing food and restaurants.

Did you ever consider working the line in a professional restaurant kitchen after culinary school? 

Not seriously. While in school, there was a point when I thought it would be an important thing to experience in order to solidify the skills I learned in class. But, after experiencing two months working at L’Ecole (the International Culinary Center's student-run restaurant) in every position of the line, I felt certain that it was enough for me. I got in trouble a lot for chatting in the kitchen and eating non-stop. I realized that as much as I enjoyed learning the techniques, what was going to be most helpful in terms of my career was what the school taught me about the restaurant industry: understanding front of house, back of house, food costing, etc., basically how restaurants work.

What is the most interesting thing you've learned working for a restaurant group?

How much it is like a family! We all have our own specific roles, but we also all take care of each other and have each other’s backs. Communication is so important in order to keep track of what is going on at each restaurant, so no one establishment lacks attention. We sometimes call Kurt “Papa”- I’m not even sure if he knows! But he looks out for all of us and we look out for his restaurants. We have a great team.

How would you describe your personal cooking style? Has working with an Austrian chef changed the way you cook or eat at all?

Before I worked for KGNY, I had never even had Austrian food before! Now I love it. I eat way too much Wiener Schnitzel, it's so delicious. Working for Kurt definitely has influenced me though, but mostly in terms of ingredient choices. I have learned new flavor combinations and fallen in love with Austrian-inspired ingredients such as pumpkin seed oil. It’s so healthy and delicious - even on ice cream (Editor's note: formerly featured pantry Shino Takeda gave us the same tip!)! My co-worker Krissy taught me to put it on vanilla ice cream and it is almost like chocolate syrup, but super healthy! I have also become extremely conscious of local and seasonal foods. Our chefs go to the Union Square Greenmarket several times a week and the menu is always changing depending on what looks best and what is available. Kurt believes strongly that good food must be made from the best quality ingredients, so now I really take that to heart. I live near the New Amsterdam Market and go there almost every Sunday to buy local produce. And, there is nothing better than fresh eggs!

My own personal cooking style is very improvisational. I get inspired and love to cook what I am in the mood for. I especially love sauces and condiments! Everything from hollandaise to compound butter; I hate dry or plain food.

In college I studied Mandarin and East Asian Studies, and I've also spent a lot of time in China, taking cooking classes both in Shanghai and in Sichuan province. A lot of times I like to cook Asian food - the spicier the better! I have a secret recipe for Chinese noodles that I learned while in Sichuan Province. They are extremely spicy and one of my favorite comfort foods. I wrote my thesis in college on the history of Chinese food in America, and how social/political relations with China directly affect the popularity of authentic vs. American-style Chinese food.

You're a young gal living it up in New York. What are some of your favorite haunts? Is there anything you love making for yourself after a long day at work?

I definitely don’t cook for myself enough. I am really busy during the week and on weekends there are so many restaurants that I am dying to try! I do make homemade granola to eat with fruit and yogurt for breakfast and bake brownies when I get the chance. I also make a lot of milkshakes - after a long day at work I just can’t resist!

Lucky cousin Matt gets to lick the whisk!

As a single gal in New York City, I have had the chance to go on some really fun dates. The best one was probably to

Bohemian - it's sort of a secret restaurant with only seven tables. The food is Japanese and unbelievable. Their foie gras soba noodles are to die for. Some of my other favorite places are The Spotted Pig for an amazing burger and their gnudi, Peels for brunch, and our restaurant Cafe Kristall for the petite Viennese finger sandwiches. I find any excuse to go there for lunch and always choose the same four sandwiches: chicken and foie gras, egg on egg and two asparagus with goat cheese. I also love to go out dancing after dinner: Southside Night Club in SoHo is probably my favorite place to go lately; they have great DJs and I always run into a million friends. I also love Chloe 81 in the LES - it’s smaller and more lounge-like but also great for dancing. On Saturday nights they have a cool French DJ. It’s awesome.

Fun nights out demand fierce earrings.

What are your favorite kitchen utensils?

Onion goggles! Just kidding. My dad gave me them for Christmas. I only put them on when I am cooking with friends to look silly. Onions don’t really even make me cry. To be serious, my favorite gadget is my hand blender. I love making soup, especially creamy black bean soup and the hand blender makes it so easy and mess-free.

Where do you like to shop for kitchen supplies?

Williams Sonoma. I could live in that store, I literally want everything that they sell. And I get a chef's discount!

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Soy sauce, truffle oil, honey, chocolate chips and polenta. Not to use together!

Lonely crisper drawers speak to Susy's aversion to most fruits and vegetables (exception: berries)

Coconut water: nature's sports drink

What are your favorite cookbooks and sites?

My boss's (Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s) book, Neue Cuisine, is amazing. It is so beautiful and the recipes are all delicious, unique and fairly easy. It is more than a cookbook, it's basically a piece of art in itself. He included lots of elements and information about Austrian art and design, especially pieces from the Neue Galerie. It’s educational and beautiful. I also just found out that none of the pictures of the food were styled. Everything was prepared just as we do for service and shot in the restaurant; it's almost unbelievable. I also read Grub Street religiously and The New York Times Dining section - of course. When Grub Street mentions one of our restaurants on their site, it makes my whole week!

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

The pantry at the International Culinary Center (where I went to culinary school)! Obviously it is a cooking school, so they have literally everything. It’s a huge storeroom with anything you can dream of. To me, the most valuable thing that they have, though, is their fresh homemade stock that the students make daily. Their stock is not even comparable to anything store-bought. It really makes a difference in your cooking, but it takes so long to make yourself! Especially veal stock. Yum. Then you can reduce it into demi-glace... wow.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

My mom! She can cook or bake anything. Her recipe collection is incredible and she doesn’t really even need to use them. Everything she makes is delicious. When my sisters and I were little, my mom would take us to school every morning and we would drive her crazy because it would be 7 a.m. and we would ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner??,” just so we could look forward to it throughout the day.

Okay, we are a little obsessed with your dog. Is that a Beau-tie we spy?

Yes! This is my Yorkie, Beau. He is also a foodie. Sadly, he has colitis and is on a gluten-free diet. He manages to eat well anyway; his favorite food is prosciutto. He gets excited if you even say the word!


Susy's Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

1 box macaroni noodles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons truffle butter
2 tablespoons (or more :)) truffle oil
Truffles (in this case, about half of a 3 oz. jar)
1 cup grated Gruyere
1 cup grated white cheddar
1 cup grated Parmesan
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

Fill a large pot with water, salt well and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 6 minutes until al dente, strain, reserve in same large pot.

In a saucepan, melt first 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes but do not let brown. Whisk in milk slowly, allow to boil and thicken. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Turn off the heat and whisk in cheeses, truffle butter, truffle oil and truffles.

Pour cheese sauce into the macaroni and add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter for good measure. Distribute macaroni into serving dish(es).

Mix panko with 1/2 cup of melted butter and a little truffle oil. Spread a very thin layer of the panko mixture over the macaroni. Put the oven on broil and let the panko brown for 2 minutes. Do not close the oven door! Do not forget about it!

(See what happens when you do forget about it below.)

Serve and enjoy!

Did that just happen?!

The term 'caramelized' springs to mind...

Luckily, it was just the very top layer that suffered the most damage - all was not lost! Good times. Thanks, Susy! For those interested in checking out Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's cuisine, visit any of his five restaurants: WallséBlaue GansCafe SabarskyCafe Kristall and The Upholstery Store. Blaue Gans will continue to host Oktoberfest festivities through this Friday, October 5. Follow Blaue Gans on Twitter for the latest updates - prost! 

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.

Shino Takeda, Ceramic Artist + Manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi Brooklyn

Shino Takeda, Ceramic Artist + Manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi Brooklyn

Have you ever wondered what it's like to have two artists in the kitchen? We didn't quite know what to expect when we visited Shino and her husband Jared over the summer, but we certainly left being blown away. They didn't seem to miss a beat in bringing creativity into their everyday meals - who knew homemade "sorbet" could be as easy as whizzing together a bag of frozen mixed berries and a bit of high quality olive oil in a blender? Shino recalled a childhood memory where her mother determined the meal after allowing Shino and her and sister to choose among a variety of plates first - a fun and carefree approach to food that Shino still follows to this day. I guess that's to be expected when you put paramount focus on both flavor and aesthetics.

Read on for Shino's most-trusted kitchen utensil and to peep her beautiful craftsmanship!

How has working at Blue Ribbon Sushi affected your knowledge and appreciation of food?

I came to Blue Ribbon Sushi with a rich appreciation of food, which I learned from my mother in Japan. Blue Ribbon has allowed me to eat high quality food and share my love of food and its culture with others.

How would you describe your food aesthetic/cooking style?

I enjoy cooking simple small dishes. I prefer to use local and/or seasonal ingredients when possible. Presentation is as important to me as the meal itself. So the perfect meal is the right balance of aesthetic presentation with simple fresh ingredients.

What are your favorite dishes/treats to make at home for you and your husband?

We get into different ingredients a lot and like to experiment. We just came back from Hawaii so right now we are eating a lot of pineapple, nuts, and macaroni salad. Great summer food. We have also been making lots of beets, it's amazing what you can do with the rich color of beet juice!

Your go-to dish that's sure to draw raves from guests?

I have so many! I love steamed pearl onions with a touch of red miso and a sprinkle of green tea sea salt (pictured above).

What's your idea of a perfect dinner party?

A great dinner party makes the diner feel like they are having a unique experience. So the perfect dinner party would consist of several courses of many small dishes, with handmade plates made specifically for the diners. I've only done this partially with cups and plates before. I've never had the chance to do it for the complete meal.

Favorite kitchen utensils or gadgets?

For me, my saibashi (or cooking chopsticks) are key. I can use them for anything (including tasting). I even bring them with me when I travel.

Where do you shop for kitchen supplies?

Everywhere and anywhere, including Sunrise Mart and Mitsuwa for Japanese ingredients.

Top pantry essentials in your kitchen?

Sea salt and different types of oils. The more variety, the better.

Do you have a secret (perhaps foreign) ingredient you love to use?

I love to use pumpkin seed oil from Austria. No one ever expects it, or can place the taste. And it has great color!

(Editor's note: The oil used here was La Tourangelle Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil.)

That is one smooth cup of joe and an even snazzier gadget - what kind of coffee maker is that exactly?

This is a Japanese siphon coffee maker.

Who is your biggest food inspiration?

My mom.

Which chefs/food producers do you admire and why?

All the farmer's market people because they use the most simplest and the freshest food.

Do you have a tasty hole-in-the-wall you'd be willing to share?

Pillow on Myrtle Avenue, they have an awesome veggie burger.

What are your favorite cookbooks/blogs/sites?

Japanese cook books because they have many pictures! I don't like to read recipes. I like to see a picture and imagine what it tastes like.

What do you like to listen to while you cook?

Whatever Jared is listening to at the time.

(Editor's note: At the time of shooting, lots of Tom Tom Club:))

Whose pantry would you like to raid?

Anders Nielsen Barsoe, a fantastic Danish chef based in Copenhagen and our loving friend!

Where can we find your beautiful work?

My blog:

Ceramics are available:



Greenhouse, 387 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Nightwood, 111 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY

And starting this past summer, the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene.

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Shino's Mixed Mushroom and Sea Urchin Risotto

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups Japanese rice
Approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Morel mushrooms
1 cup Chanterelle mushrooms
Pinch [pink] salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups water
1 cup sake, divided in half
1 bouillon cube
1 package sea urchin/uni, divided in half (Shino loves the seafood department at Eataly)

1. Toast rice in pan with generous amount of extra virgin olive oil until transparent over medium-low heat.

2. Drop in mushrooms and saute with a pinch of [pink] salt.

3. Slowly add water while mixing with a wooden spoon. Cook and let most of the water absorb.

4. Add half a cup of sake to the rice-mushroom mixture, allowing it to absorb. Add the other half cup.

5. While continuously stirring, add the bouillon cube and mix in well.

6. You are not looking for al dente in this recipe. When the rice is finally done (about 15 to 20 minutes), put in half of the uni into the rice-mushroom mixture, mix through. Plate out the rice in pretty bowls and top with the other half of the uni.

Thanks again, Shino and Jared, for the gorgeous lunch and letting us peek into your pantry!

*Photos by Christine Han Photography for Pantry Confidential. All photos on Pantry Confidential are original and copyrighted. Please credit and link back to our site when using our images, thank you.