Everyone who watched last season of Next Food Network Star remembers Yvan Lemoine, Team Giada’s family-loving finalist. Yvan charmed everyone with his welcoming personality and passion-filled cooking. Recently, we caught up with Yvan to learn about his experience on the show and how he’s keeping busy these days.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
YL: My memory is not my strongest suit, but what I CAN tell you is that I have always been a very curious kid. Chefs by nature are curious people. I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) combining ingredients to see how they tasted and reacted. Mix that with a feeling, a need really, to take care of people and that decided my road. It always brought me joy to see people’s faces and the love interchanged when bread was being broken. Now I know what you’re asking, you’re asking when I “really” started cooking. Well that’s easy, thanks to my friends over at C-CAP I started cooking in an old temple of French cuisine called “La Caravelle” in NYC.
FP: When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
YL: My last year in high school, I was acting, dancing, and cooking. One day after the 50,000th time of being late because I was running from plays and musicals, to dances, and back to cooking class, my teacher said to me “Enough!” You need to decide what you want to do. It’s either acting or culinary. Right there and then I decided to be a Chef. If he only knew that now I get to be on stage and cook at the same time!
FP: We’re glad you decided to focus on the culinary world, though we also know you do a great job of balancing both worlds! What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
YL: It’s the simple things. Good food, good drink and plenty of good company.
FP: We understand you’re also a Mixologist, what do you like most about being one?
YL: It’s a social experiment. I love people watching and theres nothing more fun than meeting new people every night while creating delicious cocktails.
FP: Name some chefs that have inspired you.
YL: Jacques Pepin- classically trained cook’s cook, Paul Liebrandt– heart of an artist mind of a madman, Anthony Bourdain- fearless eater, gonzo writer, a man consumed by wanderlust, Giada DeLaurentiis– great teacher, family oriented lover of good food and family, Michel Bras– artiste extraordinaire have you seen “Gargouillou?” C’mon!
FP: Tell us about your experience on Star from casting to filming. What was it like to compete with the others? What did you learn from the judges especially Giada?
YL: Is this one question? Looks like 3-4 condensed into one. Casting was awesome. Filming was fun. The process sucked. Learned a ton, met a lot of people who are doing what I want to do, and these people quickly became my teachers and mentors. You can’t pay to have a learning experience like this. Competition is fun but in this format the prize is not something you can tangibly see and the point system is subjective. There were a lot of amazing genuine and genuinely talented people on the show and just being in their company and seeing where they are coming from and doing taught me a lot. What did I learn from the judges?
Giada- Be fearless. Dance as if no one is looking, sing as if no one is listening and cook as if everyone is drunk and hungry.
Bobby- Stand Tall. If you want to be a star, start acting like a star.
Alton- “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”- Hunter S. Thompson
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
FP: Yeah, we had to sneak a few extra questions in there! Now that Star is over, give us an update of what you’ve been up to. We’re sure you’re busy with your company, iFood Studios. Maybe mixing up drinks in NYC hot spots?
YL: I’m seeing a trend in jumbling up and combining questions into one in this questionnaire.
FP: Guilty as charged!
YL: Now that Star is over life goes on. I tend to just go with the flow and see what interesting projects come up. That’s why I started iFoods, it is a creative food studio, a way to explore different facets of the food world and fearlessly exploring them until they bloom. After Star, I went to run Surf Lodge out in the Hamptons, and released a book called COMIDAS USA where I declare my love for American food. Plus, I’ve been working with the TAO/Lavo restaurant group, whom I consider to be the best operators in the restaurant world (the dream is to open my own restaurant, right now I am learning, and looking for the right investors to open something up). We’ve just teamed up with Chef Laurent Tourondel and I am helping with the opening of a new Steakhouse concept called Arlington Club on the Upper East Side.
FP: We’ll definitely stay tuned for the opening of Arlington Club! When you are home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself? If you go out to eat, name some favorite places in NYC or other cities you’ve visited.
YL: Lately I’ve just been brewing. I’ve fallen in love with making beer, and spirits. I’ve made beer, and vermouth, and vodka and whiskey and lots of eau de vies, If you see my kitchen right now it looks more like a lab than anything with things distilling here, and stuff fermenting there. All made fresh with quality ingredients and farm fresh fruits.
When I go out to eat I am always in search of the weirdest and most unique things things I can put in my mouth. Last good meal was at a place called Blue Ribbon Izakaya on the lower east side they have amazing sea urchin and Uni is my favorite food ever! But there I can nosh on tripe, Foi gras, tongue, chicken liver mousse, and bone marrow with bonito and seaweed. I love bold, esoteric experiences!
FP: We’d love to see your lab, err… kitchen!
Name three individuals you would want to invite over for dinner/drinks and tell us what you would prepare for them.
YL: Hunter S. Thompson, Anthony Bourdain, Dali, Jesus, Hemmingway, Mr. Batterberry, my brother and my girlfriend. I know that’s 8 but I got a big dining table.
Foie gras mousse(served in sea urchin in the shells)
miso-shallot jam & raw sea urchin
served with a New Dirty Martini
Warm Torta de Canarejal topped with Wild Morels & Alba white Truffles
served with a nice glass of Oregon white.
Followed by Coq au vin
With a Fat Chinon
Finishing with a buttery Quince Tarte Tatin & whipped Devonshire cream
with a chilly glass of Chateau d’yquem.
Finally diving into the night with some natural cigarettes
& good ol’ American whiskey
FP: Can you fit two more at the table? :) In three words, how would your friends describe you?
YL: Wonderlust, Kind, a Fool. (It’s my own word, I made it up : )
FP: If you hadn’t become a Chef or Mixologist, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking/drinks related hobbies?
YL: I would have been an actor, or a musician.
I take acting classes at TVI Actors studio for fun, and take guitar lessons at NYC Guitar School, there’s just something about playing music that lifts my soul and makes me happy. Its as close to God as I’m ever going to be.
FP: With your charisma and cooking talent, we know you’ll be successful in all of your pursuits! Thanks for your time, Chef Yvan. We can’t wait to see what comes next for you!
For more information on Yvan Lemoine, check out his website.