One thing is for certain when you watch Chopped– lots of great culinary talent! The creativity and imagination of Chef Bruce Kalman was on full display on a recent episode in which he was named Champion. Chef Bruce (@ChefBKalman) was kind enough to take time out of his crazy schedule from The Churchill (West Hollywood, CA) to answer some questions for us.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
BK: I started cooking with my grandmother when I was 9, which piqued my interest. Then at 13, I helped open a family friend’s pizzeria (in Jersey), and I haven’t looked back.
FP: When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
BK: When I was 15 or 16, I enrolled in the vocational program in high school, where I spent half of my day working in the kitchen, and I knew this was it.
FP: What do you enjoy most about being one?
BK: I really enjoy the “rush!” I enjoy the interaction with cooks, being able to teach, coach and inspire others on their journey, and hopefully make a difference in their lives. Of course, I love the instant gratification of a sexy dish, a happy guest, etc.
FP: Those dishes you created on Chopped were “sexy” for sure!
Name some chefs that have inspired you.
Thomas Keller, but the “Ad Hoc” Thomas Keller, not to mention a lot of the great chefs in LA, when I dined at their restaurants – Gavin Mills, Vinny Dotolo, Andrew Kirschner, Ori Menasche, Gino Angelini to name a few.
This business is all about being inspired to learn more, act on inspirational impulses to create something that is maybe a little bit outside your comfort zone, and pushes your limits.
FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped.
BK: Chopped was one of the toughest experiences I have faced in my career (at least on a cooking platform). What you see during the competition aspect of it is real. You don’t find out anything in advance, you don’t know your competition, and you need to adapt quickly to the surroundings.
FP: What was the hardest ingredient to work with?
BK: The toughest ingredient was the yellow rice in the dessert round, because it takes a while to cook and we only have 30 minutes. It was the first thing I did, but it just didn’t fully cook in time.
FP: Which round was the most difficult?
BK: The most difficult round had to be the appetizer round for many reasons: you’re trying to adapt to your surroundings, you’re not sure how good everyone else is, you only have 20 minutes and you’re nerves get the best of you.
We can’t imagine the pressure of cooking under that time constraint!
FP: When you’re not working at The Churchill, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself and/or for guests?
BK: A simple roasted chicken with farmer’s market vegetables cooked on the tray, kind of a 1-tray meal. I also like to make reservations!
FP: Speaking of reservations, name some of your favorite places in the Hollywood area or other cities you’ve visited.
FP: If we’re ever the in neighborhood, we’ll make sure to visit some of the spots, if not all of them!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
BK: Foie Gras, when I can find it, a really well executed steak tartar, anything that is cooked over 15 hours, great charcuterie, perfect hand made pastas.
FP: Foie Gras seems to be a popular guilty pleasure among chefs!
If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking hobbies?
BK: I would be a rock star! I play guitar and sing, used to play in a Jersey rock band awhile back.
FP: Guests of The Churchill probably see you as a “rock star” in their eyes. Thank you so much for your time. We wish you continued success!
Learn more about Chef Kalman on his website http://www.brucekalman.com/