Since its recent launch, Philadelphia's Abe Fisher restaurant has brought in accolades from Travel + Leisure and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others. On Wednesday, June 17, chef Yehuda Sichel will bring his inspired takes on international Jewish cuisine to the Beard House. We spoke to Sichel about his highly-regarded Montreal smoked short ribs, who he'd like to serve them to, and what it takes to get a cook sent home.
What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?
I want to tell the story of growing up in a Jewish home, and how the path has taken me to where I am today.
What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why?
The chicken liver canapé, because it's a dish I've been working on for a few years and it's finally getting the limelight it deserves.
What’s your earliest food memory?
When I was about five, I was at my friend Raphe's house, and his older sister had us help her make scrambled eggs, and I cracked the eggs and got shells in all of it.
How did you get started in the industry?
When I was in high school, I went to a vocational school where you had to get a job. My third job in three months was a restaurant, and I stayed there and loved it. I loved the culture. I was 15 and everyone else was older, but it didn't matter. I took those lessons home and showed off to my friends and family.
Tell us about the last great meal you ate.
It has to be Mexican night with my girlfriend. We made chicken quesadillas and drank a bottle of wine.
If you could cook one meal for any person (historical, famous, living, or dead), who would be and what you serve them?
Al Capone would really appreciate our Montreal smoked short rib, with some Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Bugsy Siegel at the same table would be pretty awesome.
What’s your guilty-pleasure food?
Shake Shack! Double SmokeShack all the way.
What’s your dream destination for food travel, and why?
Tokyo, because I think the quality of technique there is super high, no matter if it's a bowl of noodles or the best sushi in the world.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks, and why?
The French Laundry Cookbook was the first cookbook that ever got me thinking. It opened up my mind to how much thought goes into each plate, starting from the purveyors and products.
It's probably tough for you to find time to dine out, but where do you like to eat in your city these days?
In Philadelphia: date night is Umai restaurant in Fairmount. Stock Philly is great for fast and healthy. Sampan by executive chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson. I still love Zahav, even though I worked there for years. And Chinatown in general is great—Ken’s Seafood is the best spot.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If your station is clean and your floor is clean, your food is going to be better. Or: you can taste love in food, and you can also taste anger. That's why whenever cooks are angry, I send them away.
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