Floyd Cardoz just won Top Chef Masters, so he knows a thing or two about cooking. In this interview, he shares how to get more flavor out of spices, which spices he buys at Costco, which food trends he's sick of and who he really wants to have cook for him.
Curry is not a spice, but a sauce. Right?
It's a blend of spices with a choice of hundreds, and then made into a sauce. We're most familiar with "madras curry", a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek. But curry can be green, white, brown, orange, yellow or pink and they can all taste very different.
You recommend not buying pre-made curry powder, but given that this is what 90% of us home chefs do, what do you recommend?
Buy the individual spices and blend them as needed (with a coffee grinder). It gives you more flexibility to make different blends and will be much more flavorful/fresher. It's the oil in spice that gives flavor and oils are not very stable.
When is it time to throw a jar of spices out? Three years?
Six months max - especially if it's a powder. By one year, at least half the flavor is gone (remember you have no idea how long it may have been on the store shelf!). Keeping spices near the stove also adds to their decline because heat destroys oils.
Which spices are worth spending money on and which ones can you buy at Costco?
What's important is not price, but freshness ie. store turnover. Costco has high turnover so many of their spices are great. I buy black pepper at Costco all the time. I also buy all my olive oil from them!
Most unlikely spice and food combo you've created
Watermelon and chile - sprinkle a tiny bit of cayenne pepper and eat it as an appetizer.
How do you cook differently when you're feeding diners versus feeding yourself?
I don't. When I cook, I want to be happy with what's on the plate. For example, I hate cream so I don't use cream for my guests and I don't use cream for myself.
Ever peak at other's cookbooks when you run out of ideas?
I don't follow recipes, but if I'm trying something I've never done before I'll open a book to see how it's done. I like Rick Bayless' book for understanding techniques of Mexican cuisine.
Your can't-live-without utensils...
My zester/grater - it's just an old fashioned zester, not a fancy microplane. I love my Oxo peeler and I love my rubber spatula.
Favorite meal ever
Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. I had a seafood dish that was like a plate of jewels.
You've eaten the food of every great chef in the world. Is there anyone that you would like have prepare you a meal that hasn't?
Eli and Peyton Manning. I would love to have them cook me something from Loiusiana...
Ha! Do they know this?
No. I tried shouting it once at the Giants stadium, but there were a lot of other people shouting so I don't think Eli heard.
What food trends would you not miss if they were to end?
Foams, gelling agents .... distorting and overly manipulating food. What's wrong with an egg, looking like an egg and tasting like an egg?
Any trends you predict?
Goat. I think more people should, and will, start eating it. Goats are easy to raise, it's a healthy meat, it's light, it's delicious.
Any crazy restaurant fantasies?
My dream is to have a small restaurant 14 feet long, one menu. You come in, you eat what the chef's created and he serves it to you. That's it.
So I have to ask: reality TV - why are we obsessed with watching other people cook?
I think it's actually a good thing, since it inspires us. What I don't like though is extreme food shows - Extreme Chef or Man vs. Food. To act like it's cool to eat 10 bs of food in one sitting is totally disrespectful of food. I think we should focus on educational, passionate cooking, not destructive eating and cooking.
Thank you Floyd! Let me know how Eli and Peyton's performance is in the kitchen ...
Michelle Madden is the creator of the award-nominated food blog, The Sweet Beet (nominations include a Webby and Saveur.com's top food blog). On her funny, engaging but highly informative blog, she shares tips and tricks for eating well along with original recipes. Find her at www.thesweetbeet.com