Yesterday, we caught up with Radish consulting chef Katy Sparks to talk about how restaurants have changed since she was the executive chef at Quilty’s in the late ’90s, why she chose to move into consulting, and what, exactly, a consulting chef does.
Here, in the second half of the interview, Sparks weighs in on the perennial debate about whether female chefs face more challenges, reveals her favorite places to eat, and talks about what she’d like to see less of in restaurants.
Do you have thoughts on the perennial debate about whether or not it’s more difficult for female chefs to make it big?
I think it is more difficult for female chefs to make it “big” in the standard sense of making a lot of money and being a media darling. Most food writers tend to like to write about the guys’ high-profile antics rather than the women’s more low-key approach. In a broad generalization, I would say that women chefs are often held back by their discomfort with self-promotion. This is equally true of all women in the workplace — we are implicitly taught that self-promotion is unattractive. Of course there are exceptions, but in my experience and from talking to my fellow women chefs, we are just not that good at this aspect of managing our careers.
Bussaco, a Park Slope restaurant where you were the executive chef for just a month recently, just closed. Was it having trouble while you were there, or were you surprised to hear that it had gone under?
Sorry, I have no comment.
You’re now consulting at Radish, the new specialty food shop in Williamsburg. What are you working on there?
I’m creating the menus and recipes and working closely with Mike Ciardi, the executive chef, on the next menu down the pike: fall! We’ll also have some great holiday menus to make this time of the year stress-free on the food front.
What’s your favorite dish at Radish right now?
We have a frico [cheese crisp] cone that we fill with a seasonal salad and our customers walk down the street nibbling on it! It’s great, and people walk in to get one after seeing someone with our frico cone.
Where do you eat out when you’re not working?
Mostly I eat out in Brooklyn where I live — favorites are Moim, Lunetta, Frankies 457, Franny’s, Tanoreen to name a few. In the city I like Northern Spy, ABC Kitchen, 10 Downing, Annisa, Cookshop.
What would you like to see more of in New York restaurants?
More inspired vegetarian and health-oriented restaurants. I’m an omnivore, but I often crave simple, clean food in a stylish environment that is not about the animal protein.
What would you like to see less of?
Concept restaurants of any kind. To me, food is not a concept, it is a vital, life-affirming communication between the earth, the people who work with food, and the diner.
Any particular ingredient you think is overrated?
And any ingredient you think is underrated?