Imperial No. Nine’s Sam Talbot on Being a Chef with Diabetes and Why Chefs Need to be Ego-Free


Yesterday we spoke with Sam Talbot, who is now helming sustainable seafood restaurant Imperial No. Nine in the Mondrian Hotel. Today he talks about growing up with diabetes and how that’s influenced him to write a lifestyle-focused cookbook.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a chef?

There can be a lot of egos in the kitchen and everyone’s sort of gunning. I’ve always tried to position myself with people that are smart. The better the people that surround you and share your vision, the better the outcome for the food. Step on your ego and align yourself with people who share your beliefs.

Do you have any mentors?

Yeah, I had a lot. My first was James Burns. But even here now I work with great chefs. One of the partners here with me, I learn from him all the time. As I said, I like to surround myself with people who have the same view for the food as me.

What’s your favorite thing to eat when you’re not working?

I love eating fish tacos, noodles, and Vietnamese food.

Do you have any favorite restaurants?

Not that I go to on a regular basis. I’m so busy cooking, I just like my side-of-the-road fish-taco shacks.

You have diabetes. Does that make being a chef more difficult?

It’s trials and tribulations, but for the most part it’s second nature to me. You know, I try and cook on a healthier level and let the food speak for itself. Using no extra sauces and trying not to use refined sugars. I’ll use honeys and stevia, and my pastry chef and I are working on vegan cupcakes right now.

And it’s also the basis for your upcoming book, Sam Talbot’s Guide to the Sweet Life: Living Large With Diabetes, right?

Yeah, I’ve lived the diabetic lifestyle since I was 11 and now I’m 33. It’s 75 percent cookbook, 25 percent a lifestyle guide. Some parts are tricks of the trade and how to substitute sweeteners, and the rest are recipes. Rodale is publishing it.

And lastly, I read that you have 10 tattoos? Which is your favorite?

Yeah, I share a couple with my mother, so those mean the most to me.