Bill Telepan – Executive Chef at Oceana

A native of the Garden State and an early champion of farm-to-table cooking, Chef Bill Telepan believes in honoring the seasonality of his ingredients. He was raised on fresh vegetables from the family garden and got his start in the culinary world arranging sandwiches in a New Jersey delicatessen. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1987, landing his first job at Gotham Bar and Grill with Alfred Portale. In 1990 he traveled to France to train with Alain Chapel, where he learned how to center menus around the life cycle of ingredients. These unique experiences are the foundation of his greenmarket cooking philosophy. In 2004, he published “Inspired by Ingredients,” a cookbook for home chefs featuring recipes both accessible and exquisite. Shortly afterwards he opened his own restaurant in New York City, called Telepan, which became a favorite neighborhood hangout and earned one Michelin star and two stars from the New York Times. Telepan recently closed after a decade of serving delicious, thoughtful food, and Chef Telepan has found a new challenge in cooking at Oceana. He is also the executive chef of Wellness in the Schools, a non-profit promoting improvements to school lunch programs.

What made you want to be a chef?
I cooked through high school at a couple restaurants and really enjoyed it. When I graduated college, I needed to figure out what to do and whether I wanted to continue college or not. The managers that I was working with at the restaurant suggested that I try attending the Culinary Institute of America. I was having a great time working at a restaurant, so I gave it a shot. I loved the energy of it and watching the reaction of customers when they liked what I cooked. I also loved learning how to cook and experimenting. It only felt natural that I continued.

What inspires you?
I get inspired by the people that are involved in the cooking process. This can be the farmers that carefully grow my ingredients, the people I am cooking for, the staff I am working with. If you work with good passionate farmers, it will get you excited about using their ingredients. Now at Oceana, I am finding fisherman, oyster people, or suppliers that have really great product. I have definitely been learning so many new things about fish within the nine months that I have been at Oceana. I have started cooking with fishes that I have never used before, while trying to be mindful of the earth and sustainability.

Do you have a favorite knife?
The ones I find myself using a lot are the Togiharu Pro, the Korin Orange handle, and the Masanobu VG-10 knives. They are all very comfortable to hold and they are my favorite knives. I have so many knives, but I always reach for those when I need to cook.

What do your knives mean to you?
They are such an important part of what I do. Even when I leave home, I keep my knives very sharp. With my program, Wellness in the Schools, we talk a lot about the importance of cooking at home. I always tell people to have one good chef knife and paring knife, then learn how to maintain it to keep it sharp.

What is your goal for your profession?
For me personally, I’d like to continue to stand properly for a long time. I love what I do, so I’m happy. Whether it be cooking here at Oceana, cooking in cafeterias, or teaching kids at schools. Anywhere I have the opportunity to cook good food for people and make them happy, that is where I am happy.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Put your head down, work hard, earn as much as you can, be curious, and have a good time. You have to love it. It is so hard… It is hard physically and emotionally. You work long nights and weekends, then you miss a lot of family events. While I was away from the kitchen, I thought about what it would be like to work an office job for eight hours a day. I just can’t imagine how much I would miss the action and the energy. Yes, I’m working but it doesn’t feel like I’m working. It feels like I’m going home and cooking for people, except I’m getting paid for it. It is great!

2017 Korin Knife Catalog