He’ll be in DC later this month for the Art of Catering Food conference, but before Eric LeVine teaches those future chefs all about the industry, Pursuitist caught up with the award-winning chef, restauranteur and author to dish a little about recreating the casual dining experience, his commitment to local sourcing, and his own favorite flavors.
Pursuitist: Chef LeVine, you’re known for a lot — you’re a”Chopped” winner, five time cancer survivor, creator of amazing eats — as well as maintaining a commitment to sourcing from hormone/cage-free local farms. At the conference, you’ll be performing some much-anticipated live cooking demos. So… what’s your favorite ingredient can we expect you to be using (and maybe demo-ing with) right now?
Chef Eric LeVine: That’s a tough one. I’m always looking for something new to use to share without scaring the customers, and I focus on cooking with seasonal products. During my demonstration at the Art of Catering Food conference I will be teaching about sustainable fish.
P: Sounds delicious and healthy! But not everyone eats fish. In fact, not everyone eats a lot of things. It seems that dietary restrictions are on the rise. How challenging are dietary restrictions for the chefs of today?
EL: [My restaurants, Morris Tap and Grill and Paragon Tap and Table] are very flexible there. My daughter Stephanie has celiac so I am very aware of food allergies. Chefs these days are more apt to pay attention to the customers’ needs.
P: Congratulations on the success of both of your restaurants. It sounds like you have good instincts on what works in the casual dining space. What are some trends you see emerging there?
EL: There are lots of trends in the fast casual space, specifically, there is a push to street fare, food truck style. At Morris Tap and Grill and Paragon Tap and Table, we are always striving to push the envelope in a gastropub environment. Today we are focusing on putting our twist on the street fare, food truck, and fast casual approach by taking classic menus and elevating them to a new level.
P: Can you share your best tip for at-home chefs and those newer to the industry?
EL: Prepare ahead and keep things simple. Buy the best ingredients and start from fresh.
P: Sounds easy enough! Let’s end this chat with a very personal question. What is one thing you could eat (and eat and eat) and never get enough of?
EL: Aside from caramel, which I am staying away from after dropping 65 pounds, I could eat sushi and sashimi every day.
Desserts are always divine, but it sounds like, for Chef LeVine, sustainable fish is a staple on the menu! For more culinary candor, recipes and tips, and to see where Chef LeVine will next be showing his skills, see his website or check out his latest book, “Small Bites Big Flavor: Simple, Savory, And Sophisticated Recipes for Entertaining.”