Harold Dieterle was recently awarded a spot on Robert Sietsema’s list of New York City’s 17
Greatest Chefs . The first-season winner of Top Chef is tops in New York City for his command of two successful Greenwich Village restaurants, Perilla and its follow-up, Kin Shop. We spoke with the chef to find out how the newlywed (congrats!) is splitting holiday traditions with his new wife, where he eats on his day off, and what’s next for the toque — spoiler alert: He plays coy, but we’d bet our Chanukah gelt there’s a little “something, something” in the works.
What are some new seasonal dishes that you’re excited about?
There’s quite a few specials that are revolving at Kin Shop. Last week into this week, we started doing a steamed Scottish salmon dish with “wet-style” pumpkin curry with a lot of fall spices in there. … We have tempura’d broccoli on there, and we also take the broccoli stems, julienne them, and do a stir-fry with that, shiitake mushrooms, and some more pumpkin, and top [the salmon] off with that and hot sesame oil. At Perilla, I got some Greek mantis prawns in last week. They almost look like a praying mantis. They have long feelers. We do them in a trio of shellfish [with scallops and sea urchin ravioli]. The mantis prawns are done salt-and-pepper style. We pop off the tail, which is the hardest part of the shrimp, and I just toss the rest of it in some seasoned flour with a lot of salt and black pepper and deep-fry it. You eat the whole shell just like the salt-and-pepper shrimp at a Szechuan restaurant. These guys taste more similar to a langoustine.
What are you going to be doing at each restaurant for the holidays?
At Perilla we’re doing our American Thanksgiving. It’s a really great day. We do three courses and it’s a lot of American glasses. We get sourced heirloom turkeys and a bunch of other dishes, apple crisp, and a chocolate dessert. We blow it out. We close Kin Shop for the holidays. … We’ll do a New Year’s Eve something, something at Perilla with a champagne toast and the whole nine yards.
Do you bring your family to Perilla for the holidays?
I just got married, so I’m still trying to figure out the holidays. I don’t have it figured out yet. If you have any advice for me I’m all ears …
You have expanded from one restaurant to two. How’s it going toggling between the two places?
It’s good. It’s challenging. One thing I always thought about the geographic location of the two places being so close together — I thought it was going to be really great, them being seven to eight minutes apart. But I find myself running back and forth really frequently.
Any plans to open a third restaurant?
Yeah, we’re working on a little something, something. I’m not really talking about it just yet.
Where do you go to eat on your nights off?
No Peter Luger?
My wife took me there for my birthday, my first time. It was totally fine; I think they have a very good calculated scheme set up there. You show up and no one has been sitting at your table for a half hour while they make you sit at the bar and have a drink before dinner. But, the steaks were good, sides were fine. … They have it figured it out. I love that everyone comes over and sings happy birthday to you in their thick Eastern European accents.
What’s the benchmark dish for you at Thai restaurants?
Green papaya salad. It’s what great Thai food should be. It’s clean. There’s supposed to be some heat to it, some acidity to it, some sweetness and refreshing. You’re the original Top Chef but you haven’t done any shows after. Any interest in food television?
I don’t know. I say no, but it could happen. It should be really organic, and it’s so hard to make that happen. Even my friends that are trying to do shows, I hear so many great ideas. And then you see the crap that’s on TV, it’s just like, “Really?” I know a dozen different chefs trying to pitch a dozen different ideas that are better than what’s on television right now. It’s a really weird dynamic. I feel that it’s going to turn into the burger situation in New York right now. We’re just going to be so oversaturated that it’s going to bust.
There’s only so much cheese you can put on top?
Exactly. That’s right.