Yesterday, we spoke with Chef David Burke about grilling and ramps. Today, we take the chef in a different direction: chatting about over-the-hill food trends, creativity, and the multiple restaurants he’s looking to open in the next few years.
What food trends are you tired of seeing?
The molecular gastronomy is fun, I’m very creative, but I’m kind of over powdered olive oil. I like oil the way it is. I like vanilla ice cream on apple pie, too. But I love creative presentation. I really embrace creativity and trying new things. To me, some of the molecular stuff will be left with us and some of the places that do it well will continue but not everybody can pull that off.
I’m really tired of burgers. I see a burger on the cover of a high-end national magazine again. … It’s like, c’mon, man. Every fourth month I see a burger on the cover. So, burgers … I’d like to see some bison on the center of the plate more. We’re selling quite a bit of it which is a good sign. But burgers and pizzas — it’s just like, c’mon. I’m just a little tired of burgers.
You’ve created a number of food products and innovations — spray dressing comes to mind. What food inventions does the world need now?
I think the world needs an invention that’s like a pedometer, for food. That counts how many calories you’re taking in. Something that you wear. That would be something interesting. It’s more engineering than a food idea. Like a counter of calories.
I think people are just going to have to start eating healthier. Myself included. Smarter, healthier … it doesn’t mean sacrificing things though. I think the way things are advertised has to change a little bit. You do see some it it [changing]. Like Burger King has a commercial with 10 new items, three or four of them are salads. So they’re trying. It takes time. But I think a healthier invention to embrace healthy eating. But healthy food has to taste good. It can’t just be raw and salads. There have to be flavor profiles that make food healthy. I use the word “healthy,” but really “sensible” is better. You don’t have to be a diet eater. Just track [your food]. People are just overeating.
I’m working in beverage programs now and have created a beverage called 12NtM; it’s in all of the Whole Foods in America. We have two flavors. The third will be out by summer. It gets you away from soda; it gets you away from sweet iced teas. There’s very little sugar in this drink.
I’m working on something very interesting that fights cholesterol. But I can’t really talk about it. It’s a cholesterol fighter; it’s kind of a cool idea.
Where do you come up with your ideas?
Not in the shower — I’m not a long-shower guy. But I daydream a lot; I write things down. I always carry a pad. I’m still a pad guy. I don’t text my ideas into my phone, yet. I carry ideas for a long time. I think it inspires me to think of stuff. When you do it for years — think that way, I mean — you train yourself to combine things that work together and one day it pops into place. I think experimentation is good for ideas. If you keep trying things, bouncing things around. It’s like designing a dish.
You have a lot of very tongue-in-cheek dishes and dish names. What comes first, the dish or the whimsy?
The [pretzel crusted] crab cake is whimsical — it looks like a raft — but the deal is that I was sitting at my bar in New York, having a meeting with one of my managers and a few cooks. And we served pretzel sticks with mustard oil and I was eating them. They were so crunchy, I was thinking, This would be a great coating.
So the sensible thing was to use it for crab cakes because it doesn’t absorb oil. It’s coated already. Breadcrumbs absorb a lot of oil when you fry them because they’re dry. It’s like a dry sponge. This has got the coating on it so it absorbs a lot less oil and it’s crispier to begin with so you don’t have to put it in the fryer to crisp it, just to warm it. So there was a sensibility to it from a health aspect but also we realized it looks like a raft and it’s a crab raft but we don’t call it that. Utilization is where I’m coming from, but these things also give the dishes a great look. And a sense of style. It’s different, it’s unique.
What’s your poison? Red wine, white wine, beer, cocktails?
As much as I look like a beer guy, I’m a wine guy. If I’m having a wine casually I’ll have a sauvignon blanc. While dining I’ll have a pinot. Mostly, it depends on where and what I’m eating. If I have a cocktail it’s usually a Stoli. And that’s about it. I’ll have a bourbon maybe once every six weeks. I don’t drink whiskey. Maybe tequila every two months. That’s about it.
Any future plans to hop into food television? A show of your own?
Yeah, I’d like to. I’m talking to a couple different people. We’ve been doing some shoots on and off … a couple of Food Network things here and there. But it’s all about designing what the show that I’d like to do is. I certainly would like to be on television. I think I can do a good job of it. That’s always something that I’ve wanted to do.
What’s coming up in David Burke world? Any new restaurants?
We’re negotiating two or three deals right now. But they’re all different. One would be the summer, one would be seven, eight months from now. One would be a year. So we’ve got a handful of things on the burner, but staggered.
New York, national, international?
I want to stay in New York. New York and New Jersey. Another one in Foxwoods perhaps. We’re kind of concentrating to stay local. … I’d like to stay on the ground for a little while.