Behind the Stove
10 Dishes with Celebrity Chef Alex Stupak
The award-winning chef who owns New York’s Empellón restaurant group tackles our speed round of questions.
After a shift, what is your favorite guilty pleasure to eat? “I love a fried egg sandwich on a Martin’s potato roll. The trick is to burn the hell out of the bottom of the egg so it’s very crispy. Mayonnaise is always involved, otherwise it’s whatever cheese, pickle and meat scraps I can forage for.”
Is there one dish you won’t cook? “The only thing I’ll never cook is Mexican food, of any sort, at my mother-in-law’s house. That’s sacred.”
All-time favorite spice. “Surprisingly, it is fenugreek. In general, I am obsessed with all spices and specifically how they are used in the Middle Eastern universe, but fenugreek has really gotten under my skin. Try cooking potatoes in butter infused with fenugreek and then top them with tons of labneh and fresh dill.”
What is your favorite music to listen to while you cook? “The Kills, Radiohead, Metric, Minus the Bear, PJ Harvey and Nine Inch Nails.”
Did you grow up cooking as a child? “I did. Watching Julia Child and Jacques Pépin every Sunday morning was a big deal for me and it definitely pushed me to my kitchen at home to see what I could whip up.”
What cookbook is your go-to resource for inspiration? “There are many, but Los Postres de El Bulli by Albert Adria has been the one constant.”
After all these years working in restaurants, do you still enjoy going out to eat? “I do but it’s difficult to let it all wash over me anymore. Meaning, I’m so lucid about the experience it is hard to lose myself. I love seeing the great job others are doing and try to make it a learning experience every time.”
Is there one chef you’d like to cook with? “I would have liked to learn from Joël Robuchon.”
Name the all-time best cooking show. “It’s a new one...Nailed It! might be the most entertaining show ever.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “I use Olfa art blades quite a bit. They are handy like a pocket knife, but feel more slick and refined to me.”
Interview has been condensed and edited.