Harold Dieterle always struck us as far too dignified to be on reality TV. The Top Chef winner has just opened Perilla on Jones Street where he shows off his love for seasonal ingredients (fiddlehead fern ravioli, grilled ramps) and Asian flavors (yuzu caviar, Chinese sausage). We knew his last meal would be inspired, but what we really wanted was to see some silliness.
So, your last meal. What’ll it be? I think we’re gonna have to go with half beaches in Thailand, half pig roast.
How do you roast the pig? Well, you have to start two or three hours ahead—dig your pit, soak the banana leaves. I like to cure the pig first, the same way I do my pork belly at the restaurant, in salt, sugar, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. Then rinse it off and wrap it in the banana leaves and let it go for a long, long time. It’s a roast/steam kind of thing. Condiments are important. The quintessential condiment over there is lime juice, fish sauce, and chiles. And we’d need a lot of Thai beer. I don’t drink beer, but everyone else does. I’m allergic to beer—to hops.
Oh, man. Really? Would you drink something else? It’s funny, I remember being drunk a lot when I was there, but I can’t remember what I was drinking. Oh, palm oil juice. I was drinking that or grapefruit juice with vodka. And salt on the rim, basically a salty dog. And the fruit doesn’t get much fresher.
Sounds like a guaranteed hangover. How long were you in Thailand? For a month in 2002. I spent a couple weeks cooking and a couple weeks playing. It was pretty cool.
Nice. So, what else? I’d rock and roll with some local veggies—bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and water spinach are really good. I’m a green-vegetable fiend. It wasn’t always that way—I used to be a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I didn’t have my first avocado until I was 21. My mom was a really phenomenal cook, but she made Italian food mostly, and I wasn’t taken out to nice restaurants.
The Italian-American culture is not about restaurants. Yeah, we went to my grandma’s house to eat every Sunday. Anyway, with the pork, you gotta have some rice. That goes without saying. So we’d have to bring the rice cooker for that. Which means someone has to bring the power generator. Oh, this is getting bad. It’s getting way too New York.
Would you have any sweets? I don’t know. The whole concept, for me, is being there with all my closest friends. Everyone’s got their bikinis on . . .
Do you have your bikini on? Maybe. Green’s my color, if you’re looking for a parting gift.