Chef Carlo Mirarchi
Carlo Mirarchi is the co-owner and executive chef of Blanca and Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Mirarchi is a self-taught chef and his culinary prowess has won the acclaim of publications including New York Times and Bon Appétit, as well as earning him a Michelin Star and a place as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2011. Bon Appétit has recognized Roberta’s as sixth on the list of “20 Most Important Restaurants in America.”
What made you want to be a chef?
It was the only thing I was really passionate about. I was cooking from a pretty early age, throughout high school and college. At a certain point I was at a crossroad where I had to decide whether I was going to pursue what I was passionate about for the rest of my life, or if I was going to try some other things. At that time it was very difficult to make money as a cook and I was still trying to pay for school. It was very challenging, but ultimately I decided that I was going to do this for the rest of my life or die trying.
Do you have a mentor or a chef who particularly inspired you?
David Kinch has been a major influence and a mentor figure for me. He has been someone I could talk to and look up to not only about food, but to help me develop as a chef and employer of a large staff. He has been a huge factor in helping me get to where I am now.
What do you think of the importance of having cooking experience in foreign countries?
It is one of the important experiences that you could have. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel when I was young, because both of my parents are immigrants. We would go back to see our families in Panama and Italy. It has been a tremendous influence not only on my palate, since I was always tasting different things, but as a person too. You become more open, accepting, and understanding of different cultures, approaches to life, experiences of food, and restaurant hospitality. It has been the most crucial things to my developing as a chef.
What is the most important aspect of cooking to you?
The first thing is to have a vision of what cuisine means to you. Try to stay true and focused on that. To me its very important that when you go into a restaurant that it is not food or hospitality by committee where they are checking things off a box of what they should do. It has to feel like it came from an individual or a small group of individuals that are truly trying to create an experience for their guests. You can create different experiences in different restaurants, but you have to feel that for better or worse this is one person’s idea of hospitality.
What do you think of the recent popularity of Japanese food and knives?
I feel that chefs like Toshio Suzuki really set the groundwork in New York over 30 years ago. It is interesting to see how this has trickled down into the contemporary restaurant kitchen. Konbu, Katsuobushi, Sake; these are basic kitchen staples in many restaurants today. Japanese knives and whetstones are also prevalent. Techniques, particularly those involving the care of and, butchering of fish, are rooted in a Japanese style in many restaurants regardless of the chefs background.
What do your knives mean to you?
I don’t collect knives, but I have a lot of knives that I use. It is important to me to give knives to people. All of my sous chefs whether they are coming, leaving, or have a birthday have a knife from me. It is very important for me to share my experiences with a gift of a knife that they will hopefully keep and maintain for the rest of their career.
Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
Buy a carbon steel knife. It will achieve a finer edge. While it is definitely a commitment to care for, it is going to make you cleaner, more efficient, and more organized. The idea that this is a knife that you can’t just leave wet on a cutting board is going to make you more conscious of what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
What is your goal for your profession?
I look at my goal as each individual service. Every service is a new day. It is really important to wake up every day and look at the service as a new opportunity to do better than before. As crucial as it is to maintain a vision and plan for the future, you’re only as good as your last service. It doesn’t matter what you did on Friday if you had a mediocre day on Sunday.