We’re sure that there have been many times over the course of your career or personal life, that you wished you had a second chance. On Chopped Redemption, four chefs recently had the opportunity avenge defeat from their first go-around. While she didn’t win again, Chef Anastacia Song was gracious enough to answer our questions. Read on to learn more about her!
FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped Redemption. How would you compare it to the first time you competed?
AS: Being on Chopped Redemption was SO MUCH MORE FUN than the first time. The first time around, I was riddled with anxiety; it’s a new experience, competing for a healthy amount of money in a kitchen that’s not yours. In addition, I had a lot more on the line the first time around. I was in a really horrible situation where walking into work (at the previous establishment) wasn’t a pleasant experience for a myriad of reasons and I saw the monetary prize as a way out. Coming back for Redemption, I think you can definitely see a calmer, cooler Chef… one who knew what the routine was and what to expect. I certainly was a lot more comfortable in my own skin. I did yell at my staff for not telling me that the red hair made me look like Chucky… haha, C’est la vie. Hopefully, I was able to get a message across both times and was entertaining enough for viewers to watch.
FP: You definitely displayed your talent in the Chopped Kitchen! When you’re at home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself? Or for friends?
AS: To be entirely honest, I don’t cook much for myself. I practically live off of pre-made meals and nutritional shakes. My passion and joy for cooking truly stems from cooking for others, especially people that I care about. When I have friends over, I enjoy making fresh pastas, osso buco and porchetta. It also depends on who I’m cooking for.
I really enjoy introducing people to foods or cuisines they may hold stigmas about. The last meal I made werefor two friends who had never had Korean food before, so I made them a traditional Korean meal, family style. When I know I’m cooking for others, I pre-plan like I’m at work and put a lot of thought, prep and effort into the meal. When it’s just me and the dog at home, it’s Pizza Bagels & Hot Pockets all day!
FP: You can cook for us any time! 🙂 We’ve eaten in Jersey City before and know it’s an established foodie area. Where are some of your favorite places to eat in JC? Or other places in NYC/NJ area?
AS: My favorite restaurant ever is Del Posto. I’m a diva, I know haha. Del Posto inspires me to strive for a higher class of meal. Unfortunately, chefs don’t make the “Del Posto every night for dinner” kind of money. I’m a huge fan of seafood done simply and raw when possible. BCD Tofu House in K-Town is where I bring my Sous team to eat for some late night grubs, particularly for the marinated raw blue crab. Claw Daddy’s in the LES and Cull & Pistol at Chelsea Market are my two go-to’s as they are just so SOLID. Otherwise, in Manhattan, you can’t beat just walking around Chinatown and walking into one of the million basement restaurants that are just moderately questionable at first glance but just AMAZING.
In Jersey City, my favorite restaurant, apart from Porta, would be Morgan’s Fish Market on JFK Blvd. I love mom & pop joints. You walk in and see the matriarchs killing it in the kitchen. I’ve also always received great service. The food is simple, beautiful and so well done. DigiCafe (Caribbean cuisine) in JC is also a definite go-to for me… and they deliver. Same reasons. Everytime I’ve ordered food, a supremely sweet woman with a heavy accent calls me to confirm my order and the food is just so spot on. I envision her daughter waiting tables while she cooks some outstanding food.
FP: We always love learning about new places to eat! What are some of your guilty pleasures? We call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 😉
AS: I love sleep. WAY more than any adult rightfully should. I could hibernate like a bear for days and still crave sleep. Apart from that, vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles always makes me happy. You can’t beat a classic.
FP: Can’t go wrong with ice cream! Name 3 chefs you would enjoy cooking in the kitchen with and why. We hear you have a crush on Scott Conant 🙂
AS: Three chefs I would enjoy cooking with… I have to say Massimo Bottura for his contribution in Italian Cuisine, Martin Yan because he was my introduction into cooking. I grew up watching him cook on PBS and he was the first well known Asian chef on TV for me to really look up to.
Anthony Bourdain because, and I believe I speak for my generation of chefs, most if not all of us toiled and succeeded by reading Kitchen Nightmares during our 2 minute cigarette breaks between services or during family meals knowing we were not alone in our dreams of success while we spent the next 12 hours toiling, being yelled at, being burnt and cut and pushed our mind and bodies to absolute exhaustion for a vision of something bigger and greater.
Yes, I have the world’s biggest crush on Scott Conant, as I believe many women do haha. I know he worked hard and passionately to succeed as a chef which on its’ own is sexy as hell but the man has an outstanding smile. I wouldn’t want to cook with him for the sole reason that I’d be an anxious mess and would probably screw up my mis en place. Having him as a judge during my first Chopped competition turned me back into a giggling teenager with a crush.
FP: Half of FP (Allen) knows all about Chef Martin Yan for sure! If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?
AS: If I could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, it would be Jamaica or any of the Islands. Caribbean/Jamaican Cuisine, Jerk chicken, Oxtail, all of it. I love it so f*cking much and I know so little about it. I’d love to learn more about a cuisine I have so few exposure with but so much love for.
FP: Did you say Jerk Chicken?! Yes please! If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? What are some of your non-cooking interests and hobbies? We read that you have 26 tattoos.
AS: If I wasn’t a chef, I might have been a doctor. I was on the path to eventually having a team call me Doctor instead of Chef and realized I didn’t love it at all and gave it all up. It would be either that or I’d still be in the restaurant industry on a front of house team. I was a bartender and beverage director for quite a while until I realized my passion was to be found in the kitchen.
So, I have many tattoo’s, yes and have recently started a sleeve which I am completely excited about. I spend a lot of my spare time playing with the love of my life; he’s 16 pounds of furry, cuddley goodness – my dog, Oliver. I also enjoy drawing. I was quite the artist as a child so I doodle in my spare time. I have a deep passion for volunteer work. I try to spend a healthy amount of time volunteering at homeless shelters and do a lot of coaching for teens who need some help and direction which typically involves a lot of coaching for LGBT teens and kids who deal with bullying. I was bullied a lot as a kid and while I feel it made me a stronger person in the end, I also had moments where I felt so alone in the world. I can’t fathom others feeling as low as I have at some points in my life. It means a lot to me to be able to impact someone positively, who might not be able to see how beautiful they are as a person and help them realize that they can be capable of so much more than they may perceive.
Apart from that, my biggest hobbies involve food. I love getting lost in various places and checking out restaurants, bakeries, cafe’s and bars. I love discovering foods and environments that I may not otherwise be exposed to. I love reading chef-oriented books. Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney is a particular favorite of mine. I discovered it while I was a Sous Chef and the book was enlightening and empowering. I love getting new cookbooks regarding various different cuisines and techniques. One of the beautiful things about being a chef is that our culture is constantly changing and evolving. You can’t be a master at being a Chef. There’s always something new to learn, a new dish or technique or type of cuisine to learn about. This thirst for knowledge inspires me. Oddly enough, I like to read management books every now and then as well. Most cooks these days aspire to be a famous TV chef and don’t realize that there’s so much more to being a chef than just cooking a plate of food here and there. You may be able to think of an amazing meal, cook it and plate it and be ecstatic but being a Chef is being able to break down that meal, teach every aspect of it to someone else and have said team be excited to recreate that exact same plate hundreds of times – consistently. Being able to lead your team successfully, empower them and inspire them (to me) is the most important aspect of being a chef. You are a leader, a teacher, a psychologist, a coach, a cheerleader and an investigator all in one, all the time, every day… from your dishwashers and porters all the way to your sous team. Management books help me understand how to be a better leader for my team because my success as a Chef is due to their diligence, passion and hard work – not just my own.
FP: Thank you so much for your time! We enjoyed getting to know you and wish you continued success!
Editor’s Note: When we first contacted Chef Anastacia regarding an interview, she was the Chef de Cuisine at Porta in Jersey City, NJ. Recently, we learned that she is now the Executive Chef at Martha in Fort Greene, Brooklyn!