Chef: Todd English – New York
Olives at the W Hotel, New York
In creating palatable cuisine, few chefs or restaurateurs are as faithful to the earth’s fundamental foods as culinary superstar Todd English. So what does English believe makes one dish magnificent, and another not so, when it comes to the art of the chef? “You’ve got to stay true to your style, and you’ve always got to keep the show on the road, man. That’s it,” he quips.
A handsome chap with major culinary credentials and awards to his name, English is also a fun-loving family man, a charitable soul, and a traditionalist who possesses a larger-than-life sense of humour and a gracious patience. His source of creative inspiration? “It comes from all different places, and typically it’s when I’m travelling. I draw from classic cooking, and it may be something that I have read or something that I have eaten somewhere, and I extract it from those ideas.” Describing his first allure to the art of the chef, Todd ventures, “It’s my love for food. It’s as simple as that and I love the art of it.”
In Italy, great food is the food of the family and, while nodding to a number of traditions, English’s signature cuisine exerts an especially attractive, articulate respect for Italian cuisine: “I am a really big-time seasonal guy,” he tells me. “I love harvest time in the Northeast, when the tomatoes are incredibly ripe and wonderful. I love to eat, and there’s nothing I love more than a good, wonderful bowl of spaghetti.” And serving at home to impress his own family? “Usually some sort of pasta, and whatever I can find that’s really beautiful and fresh at the market,” he says.
English recalls how his love of the kitchen was formed. “I certainly got a lot of it from my mother…which was a huge influence on me. The first time I stepped into a professional kitchen, when I was 15, I knew that there was something about it that I really liked. I thought, ‘Wow, this is fun, I really enjoy this!’ I felt drawn to it,” he explains.
English caught the eye of the culinary world when the James Beard Foundation named him their “National Rising Star Chef,” followed by “Best Chef in the Northeast” (1994). Now Todd English cuisine is served in any one of an array of fine restaurants, including the appropriately named Todd English aboard the Queen Mary 2, Olives at the W Hotel on Union Square in New York, and bluezoo at the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, Florida, to name a few.
Being a world-renowned chef entails a hectic schedule, yet English finds time for relaxation and unwinding. “I hang out with my kids! I like athletics, so I play golf, tennis, I run,” he says. No stranger to music and composition, Todd also loves to play his guitar—“I try not to take it too seriously, it’s more for me than anybody else,” he says. For English, “every ingredient is a note, every note is an ingredient.”