Kelly Choi Rips ‘Cowardly’ Food Bloggers (Not Me)
Kelly Choi is many things. She’s: Smart, Emmy-nominated, talented, a total hottie and most of all, she’s a food lover. While she’s a mini-celebrity in the New York City food scene thanks to her show ‘Eat Out NY,’ she’s about to make a national splash as the host of ‘Top Chef Masters.’ I was lucky enough to have a nice little food-focused chat with Miss Choi, resulting in discussions on everything from food blogging to her creation of Frankenstein sandwiches that I still can’t get my head around. More After the Jump.
You have a book coming out called ‘The 20 Most Delicious Dishes in New York.’ What was the 21st most delicious, the one that just didn’t make the cut.
“You know, originally I was going to call it ‘25 Most Delicious,” but a few of the restaurants whose dishes I picked unfortunately had to close. So, I do actually have the 21st, but none of them are ranked. They’re just dishes I’ve had over the years. I try to be eclectic with the ones I’ve chosen. It’s total food porn, with a big close-up of the dish, a shot of the chef. The photos are beautiful, there’s some edgy cool shots sprinkled in between with some very iconic chefs that represent different things to me — Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Dave Pasternack, Lidia Bastianich, Wylie Dufresne. Besides the 20 dishes and all the chefs that created them, I have those guys in some really unique situations for a photo.”
If you had $5 to buy any prepared food item or items in Manhattan, what would you get? It can be various items from different places if you’d like.
“One of my favorite things to eat is tuna salad and egg salad. I’d just go to a bagel store, I’d get a very seedy pumpernickel or rye bagel, toasted hard. One side of the bagel I get a scoop of egg salad, and the other I get a scoop of tuna salad and I squash ‘em together and eat it. So, when I bite into it, I get the seedy crunchiness of the bagel and the soft fattiness of the mayo — I love mayo, and it oozes out the side — I could eat that all the time.”
You really combine them into one sandwich?
“Yes! A scoop of each one into one sandwich. It’s so good. You just gotta make sure you toast the bagel well, and if you do a scoop of each, get the bagel scooped out so it will be encasing.”
Alrighty then. Are you a pickles in your tuna salad girl?
“If they have some sweetness. I usually don’t put pickles, but maybe some celery. I’m down with whatever the deli has. I’m seriously someone who can eat it at any deli, or from a great bagel store like Murray’s or H&H.”
Food blogging has gotten to be a popular sport over the past few years. Are you cool with the explosion of it?
“The whole idea of blogging about let’s say a new restaurant opening and really cutting down on them — if there’s anything really negative, the form of being anonymous and doing it rampantly is cowardly. There’s definitely a place for constructive critique, but every now and then you come across a review for a restaurant, meal or service that’s just biting, and that’s really uncool. I don’t see it too often, but if you have a real complaint and if you feel that strongly, I hope that person expressed that in the restaurant. You can say anything if you do it nicely.” *(Author’s Note: This is why you’ll never see me openly name or complain about a restaurant or its servers… so Kelly, if you’re reading, I’m not one of those chef-bashing tools)
And I’m sure the chefs would love to hear the critique from the diner, instead of on a random blog.
“Totally! That’s one thing I felt very much while chooting ‘Masters’ is these guys who cook all day long, they want to hear what everyone thinks. They’re so humble about it, and that’s no different goingo to a restaurant. They may not agree with you, but they’re definitely open to hearing about it.”
What’s your guilty pleasure food product … something in your fridge/pantry that some would be shocked to find.
“Whatever’s in my kitchen is pretty variable. I don’t really think of food as a guilty pleasure, so much. If I want to eat it, I’ll frickin’ eat it. People talk about eating in moderation, and I don’t believe in that. If I want to eat something for the next five days, I’m going to do it. If I have a dish I really love, I want it the next day too, so why deprive myself?”
What’s the most underrated joint in Manhattan?
“There are so many. I’ll tell you one of my favorite appetizers is at this Greek restaurant called Pylos. The chef Diane created this taramosalata (a cod roe dip), it’s so creamy, dreamy and delicious. There’s no cream, it’s either bread or potato, but it’s so rich and the mouthfeel is so luxurious. I don’t hear much about that restaurant in general. It feels elegant, but not stuffy. They have a good grilled octopus, and the Greek salad — I usually don’t like tomatoes these days because they’re so genetically modified and don’t taste like anything — but theirs are always so bursting with flavor and so good. I don’t know where they get them.”
You spend a lot of time around chefs. What’s your signature dish you can whip up with confidence?
“One thing I’d definitely use — it’s not a dish, but a condiment — it’s a Korean hot sauce called kochujang. It’s like hot pepper paste that’s made with wheat flour and powdered hot pepper, a little sugar. I use it on everything and anything. I use it with crudite, I put it on eggs. One thing I used to eat a lot with it is you have a really hot bowl of rice, put in a pat of butter, crack a raw egg into it because the heat of the rice cooks it, a little sesame oil and then some of the kochujang in it. It’s spicy and sweet and nutty — it’s like a perfect porridge.”