Yesterday, we talked to Ty Bellingham, the new chef at Kittichai, who made the move from Sydney, Australia, with his family to bring his Thai food expertise to New York City. Today, he reveals what’s in his fridge, a few of his hopes and dreams, and his biggest culture shocks so far.
Is there the same rock-star culture associated with chefs in Australia that we have here?
It’s become that way. What I realized about this rock-star chef thing is that a lot of hard work goes into being these people. My hat goes off to all these chefs who are doing well for themselves because they didn’t do it overnight. The Mario Batalis and Bobby Flays, the Neal Perrys in Australia, they’ve worked hard and they got the TV deals and now everyone knows them. But a lot of hard work went into getting them there.
Do you have TV-star aspirations?
It’s a very personal thing to be a chef. If you come into the restaurant and say you didn’t like it, I take it personally. A lot of chefs, when you cook properly and put passion into it, it’s quite a personal relationship that a chef has with a person. I think we’re changing our outlook on how food is — it’s here to stay. In the ’80s and ’90s it was all about fast food, but now chefs are transforming diets. The responsibility of these TV chefs is they should change the way people look at food. It’s not just to sustain us — good food should be enjoyed and shared with family.
How did you start out as a chef?
I tried my hardest not to become a chef. I left school and applied to be in the army. I watched a lot of Tom Cruise movies when I was younger and wanted to be an officer — not a private. I didn’t study at school and so I didn’t make it into that. So, then I thought I wanted to be a policeman. What I wanted to achieve was to help people. But eventually I said, listen, let’s give this chef thing a go. I think it chose me.
Do you ever want to open up your own place?
I do. It’s a very risky business in any city in the world, and I’m not ready to take that risk just yet. My mentors always told me to never invest money in my own restaurant, but make yourself talented enough that people want to invest their money in your restaurant. But I want to give New York a go and see what happens, and if in five or 10 years’ time I go back to Sydney, I may own a restaurant there, but, at the moment, while my family’s young, I’ll work for someone else. Maybe in time.
What foods can always be found in your fridge or cupboard?
Prosciutto and hot salami are always there. I cannot live without really good mayonnaise. One of the best things I love eating is a sandwich. I sit here all day long and I’m eating restaurant food — and I’m not whining about that. As a chef, you get to eat really good food all the time. But to have a good sandwich at home with some nice bread, avocado, and some meats, I’m really happy with that.
Do you have a favorite food movie?
I’ve got a five-year-old, so I thought Ratatouille was fantastic. We both loved it.
Are you celebrating Thanksgiving this year?
I’m going to do be doing my first Thanksgiving here, which will be an experience. I’ll do a traditional dinner. I’ve Wikipedia-ed Thanksgiving, and the first meal, they said, had venison, turkey, lobster, squash. So, I was going to take all of those different ingredients and make a Thai Thanksgiving menu. Like osso bucco of turkey legs with massaman curry, and coconut lobster egg nets. It’s going to be a Thai menu, but it’ll have Thanksgiving ingredients.
What about Halloween?
I’m amazed at how big Halloween is here. Halloween is starting to come to Australia, but it’s not big at all. I’ve been told I’ve got to come to work on Sunday and have a Halloween costume on while I cook. Why can’t I just dress as a chef? My oldest son is going to be Iron Man, and my younger son will be Spider-Man, and they’ve bought me a Batman suit. So, hopefully, I’ll go to the Witches Walk in Williamsburg, and then I’ll come to work and do the line in my Batman outfit.
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