Yesterday we spoke with Michael “Kiwi” Camplin, chef at the new Meatpacking District restaurant the Vinatta Project, about his upbringing in New Zealand and the intricacies of creating a small-plates menu. Today we get a bit more personal as he reveals his guilty-pleasure eats and names three dishes that every cook — home or pro — should have in his repertoire.
What are the three foods everyone should know how to cook?
I think everyone should know how to cook a steak. I like to pan-sear it and nap it with butter and garlic, cooking it to medium rare and letting it rest for five to 10 minutes. Fish — I love cooking fish and there are so many ways to get the flavor. I like to oil-poach fish a lot at 120 to 140 degrees Farenheit and just poach until soft. I like that way of cooking fish. And everyone should know how to make a chocolate dessert.
What was the first dish you ever learned to make?
I was reminded recently by my grandma of this — I learned how to cook a sponge cake. I think my mum needed a cake to be made and I said I’d do it. I’d made one the week before, and my grandma watched me make the cake and basically make it all up. She may have known I’d go into the cooking industry long before I did.
What’s your guilty-pleasure food that you like to eat after getting off work?
Generally, I don’t eat too much because I’m always snacking but there’s a place on St. Marks that does this killer sweet-and-sour pork belly. It’s called Yakitori Taisho.
If you were to have a fictional dinner party and could cook for anyone, who would you want there?
I wouldn’t know where to start. Probably my grandfather because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him and I never got to cook for him and he was the chef of the family. And I think I’d want to talk to Peter Blake, who was a New Zealand sailor and adventurer. I love sailing and was always fascinated with him.
Will you be cooking this Christmas holiday?
I plan to be going into hibernation on Christmas. I need days off, so I’m going to sleep.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 9, 2011