If you are avid fans of the Food Network show Chopped like we are, then you must have enjoyed last Tuesday’s (6/5) episode with Chef Tony Kang (aka Chef Toka). Despite not winning the competition, Chef Tony provided one of the most memorable quotes in the show’s history (in our opinion) when he said “So I have two challenges now: seduce Amanda and win Chopped,” in reference to Chef Amanda Freitag, one of our favorite judges on Chopped.
We reached out to Chef Tony Kang (@ChefTonyKang) after his appearance on Chopped and this is what he had to say:
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
TK: I started out as a dishwasher, working for Chef Michael Maroni. He really taught me the business side of cooking. I knew I wanted to be a chef when I was really young. There is just something magical, intriguing and almost hypnotizing about the process of cooking from start to finish.
FP: Name some of your favorite chefs and why.
TK: I am a huge fan of Chef Corey Lee (Benu), Chef David Chang (Momofuku empire), Chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc). Their focus and drive in the kitchen is incredible. I was fortunate enough to Stage at David Chang’s restaurant, Ma Peche last summer. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. The teamwork, the focus, the passion amongst the chefs was mesmerizing to see.
FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped.
TK: I absolutely LOVED my time competing on Chopped. It is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my 12-year career. 20 minutes to make a composed dish is ludicrous, yet, it actually made me a better chef. I can now go into the market, look at ingredients and say, “This is the dish I’m doing with those ingredients.”
FP: What would you have done differently to win?
TK: The one thing I regret is not using the ice cream machine for the Knodel. I wanted to be different so I went for the canister and anti-griddle. In hindsight, that was a horrible idea. Other than that, I am extremely proud of how I performed and happy with the dishes I produced. I meant it when I said that the entree was one of the best dishes I’ve ever made in my career.
FP: It seemed that you developed a friendship with Chef Cory on the show; have you kept in touch?
TK: Chef Cory and I did develop a friendship really fast. We were joking around and acting goofy, even before filming began for the day. I still talk to him to this day and I am honored to call him my friend.
FP: We were DEVASTATED when Ted Allen revealed your dish as the one on the chopping block. We were just as disappointed as you were!
You know we have to ask about your quote on the show. Were you surprised Food Network aired that? Did you get a chance to interact with Chef Amanda before or after the taping? Besides her…any other celebrity crushes? 🙂
TK: I was not surprised at all that they aired my comments about Chef Amanda. It’s funny because we spent about 10 seconds talking about Amanda but they somehow stretched it into an one hour show. Don’t get me wrong, she is a beautiful woman, but I didn’t spend the entire time on set talking about her.
I actually got a chance to speak to her after we wrapped up the show. She wished me luck and gave me a nice hug. But, still no burger and beer date.
Other celebrity crushes? I have a soft spot for Mila Kunis, Arianny Celeste (UFC Card girl/Model) and I definitely love Kate Upton. If you guys can set me up with any of them, I will feed you guys free food for a year!
FP: Sorry to hear no burger and beer date. You never know though! As for free food for a year, that sounds like a challenge…we are on the case! 🙂
When you are home, what do you cook for yourself? If you go out to eat, name some favorite places.
TK: I rarely cook for myself. If I do, it’s usually a PB& J sandwich or just some fried eggs over rice. When I have time I love eating at Great NY Noodletown, Gotham Bar and Grill, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Ippudo, Colicchio and Sons, Hop Kee, and WD-50 is always a must.
FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
TK: I love junk food. That would be my guilty pleasure. I love greasy cheeseburgers and fries. It’s just so comforting to me. I also love Chinese take-out. The place by my house knows exactly how to execute the food really well. In addition, I can’t go a week without Twix or Sour Patch kids.
FP: What is the one item from the kitchen that every chef MUST own?
TK: Besides a good chef knife? I’m never without my trusty, metal cake tester. I use that to gauge all the temperatures on my meats and fish.
FP: Name three famous people you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
TK: Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, David Chang of the Momofuku empire, and actor Liam Neeson. That would be the most badass group of people to cook for, in my opinion. I would make them well-executed BBQ dishes. I would also have many cold beers and bottles of aged whiskey on hand.
FP: Any tips for novice chefs?
TK: All I can say is…Stay humble in the kitchen and in life. This business will beat you down and spit you out. The best way to avoid all that is to focus on the task at hand, always respect the chefs, and work hard.
FP: In three words, how would your friends describe you?
TK: Ambitious, Crazy, Driven
FP: Where will we see Chef Tony Kang in ten years?
TK: In 10 years, I hope to have a few of my own successful restaurants. Maybe get married and start a family down the road as well. The future seems limitless for me right now and I am grateful for every opportunity that I get.
FP: Chef Tony, thanks for your time. We can’t wait to see what exciting things are in store for your career!
Chef Tony Kang is currently the Executive Chef at Swallow Restaurant in Huntington, NY. We plan to visit Swallow in the near future so if anyone is up for a road trip, let us know!