Top Chef’s Eli Kirshtein on the Ups and Downs of Reality TV, Nemesis Robin, and Favorite Pizza in NYC


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Yesterday, former Top Cheffer and current guest chef at Solo kosher restaurant Eli Kirshtein talked about the unexpected rewards of cooking kosher. Now, in the second half of the interview, he discusses his Top Chef nemesis, Robin, and the NYC restaurants he’s liked since he moved here.

Do you keep kosher?

Not even close, but honestly, it’s been something I’ve been thinking I should experience. I’m flirting with the idea of going kosher for a couple weeks. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking about it.

What would you miss the most if you did go kosher?

A lot of people would say pork. But the hardest thing for me would be the variety of fish. [Fish with scales can be kosher; shellfish and any fish without scales are not.] That, and the other one would be dairy and meat, you know, things like butter and cream integrated in a meat dish.

So you’re guest cheffing — do you think you’ll end up staying on, or what are you looking for next?

I’m looking at some other opportunities. I’m really playing it by ear. It’s idea that I’m working at Solo right now, but I’m willing to listen to other things.

Have you spoken to Robin since the show?

No, I avoid her like the plague

So that wasn’t edited in such a way to suggest animosity.

It was not staged at all. I genuinely do not care for the woman

What are the best and worst things about being on reality TV?

The best thing is that it gives you culinary credibility, and people recognize who you are which opens up opportunities. The worst is that some people think it automatically eliminates culinary credibility: They think you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re just a novelty act. And it means people know who you are, which isn’t always good.

What do you miss about Atlanta’s food?

I feel as if there’s great food there that rivals many of the restaurants I’ve eaten at in New York. A lot of those places I miss do a fantastic job. You know, I used to haunt this late-night spot Holman and Finch there, and I really miss Flip Burger Boutique.

Have you found a favorite New York pizza spot?

I’ve gone with the philosophy ‘when in Rome.’ So I’ve been to a bunch of places, checking out the hot places. I’ve been to Artichoke, Motorino, Franny’s…So far, personally, I think that Franny’s is where to go. The white clam pizza is the one I’ve been into.

What about a favorite burger spot?

You know, I’ve been trying to find burgers, but everything is always closed. It seems like Shake Shack closes at 4:30 in the afternoon! I haven’t had a chance to get to many.

Have you found restaurants that you think are great but that no one else talks about? Underrated or under-the-radar restaurants?

I think Ippudo in the East Village is fantastic. So many of the little underground Asian joints are fantastic. As far as Franny’s, people do talk about it, but I feel like just because it’s in Brooklyn, few Manhattan diners go out there. There are still so many places I want to go — I have so many on my list.

What’s next on your list?

Just because I’ve always had an obsession with his overall vision, both the Ducasse restaurants. And I’ve been desperately trying to get to Shake Shack.

Have you come across a restaurant that you think is overrated?

I have, but I’m not going to shoot my mouth off. I feel like I might upset someone.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 18, 2010

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