Well known for his television appearances, Chef Spike Mendelsohn runs a slew of popular restaurants when he's not traveling the country for speaking engagements, culinary demos and quick-fire competitions.
Making his debut on Bravo's Top Chef: Chicago, Chef Mendelsohn then appeared on Life After Top Chef and Top Chef: All-Stars, plus Food Network's "Iron Chef America." In October, he'll debut as both host and judge of FYI Channel's new cooking series Midnight Feast.
In Washington, D.C., Chef Mendelsohn runs Béarnaise Restaurant, Good Stuff Eatery, The Sheppard and We, The Pizza. It's a lifestyle that's all in the family for this chef, whose parents and siblings are also in the restaurant business. Chef Mendelsohn trained at the Culinary Institute of America and then worked for icons such as Thomas Keller of Bouchon, Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque and Drew Neiporent of Mai House.
I spoke to Chef Mendelsohn about competing on reality TV, sibling rivalry, his hangover cure and more:
What is it really like when competing with other chefs in front of the cameras?
It's a very high intense situation. You gotta create really great food in a short amount of time. Make sure it tastes good and be plated. My trick is that I've been here ["Top Chef"] before, I've done this before, so just stay clear-headed. I'm not that intense of a competitor, so I just do my thing and stay true to myself and hopefully it works.
How do you think your sister (co-owner of Béarnaise with you) would fare as a Top Chef contestant?
Oh. I think she would get kicked off first episode. Because I don't think she'd meet up to the time limit, I don't think she'd be able to deal with the time. I think they would tell her to pack her knives and go. There's only one Top Chef in the family.
Top Chef Duels just debuted. Who would be your ideal chef to go head to head against?
My ideal chef to go head to head against would be Marcel [Vigneron, from Top Chef, season two]. Cause we're bros, and we like competing against each other; we have fun. It's the most fun, honest competition you could get. It's happened before; he won, so I think this time we'd have to put the favors on me.
At Béarnaise Restaurant, what is your favorite brunch dish, and why?
My favorite brunch dish here is the crispy pig feet with leeks, bacon, mustard, sprouts, with a 60-degree egg and the béarnaise sauce. It's the best hangover cure. It's squishy, salty, rich -- everything you'd want out of a brunch meal.
Good Stuff Eateries are your family's restaurants; what did you learn from growing up in the foodie biz?
What I've learned in the family business is it doesn't matter if you're a celebrity or a professional, you're always going to be regarded as the youngest link in the family, and no one's really going to listen to you. I have three sisters and I'm the youngest. We have seven restaurants. I just opened a speakeasy [D.C.'s The Sheppard], so I'm spread out a little thin, but it's about having good people surround you, and people who know what they're doing -- professionals. We treat the business as a business of pennies and, you know, you gotta stay on top of it every single day. We have a good company; we have a good thing going on.
How would you describe your food philosophy?
My food philosophy is, you know, just stay true to yourself and cook the food that people like to eat.
Where is the last place you traveled?
The last place I traveled to was Hawaii. I surfed and had fish taco sandwiches and green juices; I felt great and I was in Maui. Traveling is the best; you can't ask for more than being able to travel a lot.
Béarnaise Restaurant is located at 315 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, D.C.