6/17/2013 02:11:00 PM

Aspen F&W 2013: Geoffrey Zakarian on Expanding Nationally and the Return of French Cuisine

Geoffrey Zakarian puffs a cigar before his radio show in Aspen
Chopped judge and chef/restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian hosted a Sirius Food Talk as part of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, in which he interviewed big-name chefs and friends like Daniel Boulud, Jose Andres and Marcus Samuelsson. We caught up with him right before he hit the airwaves to talk about his plans for national expansion, his steakhouse dreams for NYC, why some people didn't realize he was a chef and why "tricky" restaurants don't make any money. Also, he's going to start making chef's jackets. Here's the lowdown on all of the above.

Zagat: Is hosting a radio talk show a gig you could see yourself doing more of in the future? 
GZ: Absolutely. I love this because it sort of allows me to get into someone's life. I know all these people and they're all friends and I've known most of them almost 30 years. The chef industry is very unusual, we don't have accountants and lawyers that do this. Food Talk is about hospitality, it's about...

Zagat: Alcohol.

GZ: It's about alcohol, it's about what people want to do three times a day. They want release, they want life and love around the table. It's a positive show and it's about a love of food and a love of living. It's easy. I have notes but I rarely look at them. People that hear the show want to hear something different about these people than what they might know. Like what else do they do? I came from the world of economics. Ted Allen has a degree in journalism. Marc Murphy was a clown, a race car driver. Anne Burrell used to cold-call doctors. 

Zagat: There have been rumors that you're opening a restaurant similar to The National in the Boston Seaport District - true or false?
GZ: I'm looking. I'm looking at a lot of cities. I mean I'm from Boston so I think a lot of people jumped the gun on that. I haven't signed anything yet. I'm looking at Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, DC, Chicago. There's nothing signed in Boston, zero. The National - we love that brand. We think it has legs and we think it really fits. It's timely and it's very American, it's aggressively focused on great food, great organic products when we can get them, great hospitality.

Zagat: Would you do another project in New York and if so, what would you do?
GZ: Absolutely. I want to do a steakhouse in NYC. I've been looking and looking. We'll do it. The thing about New York is that it's never going away. It's cyclical. People are opening hundreds of restaurants a year. You plot it out, you take your time. We're looking seriously for a steakhouse and a National downtown and I'd like a seafood restaurant downtown also.

Zagat: You're one of the more stylish chefs out there. Dapper, some might say. Would you want your own clothing line?
GZ: We're actually doing something with a private tailor to do chef jackets. I think food and fashion is the same, it all comes back every 30 years. Now French food's all the rage, it's been around forever. I think that modernist cuisine stuff is going away. People are like: Can you make a roast chicken? Can you do a roast pig for four or five? We are introducing things now that are old-fashioned, but we put our modern twist on it for 20- or 30-year olds. That's the beauty of food. Food and fashion are very similar. [They are] very tied to the trends, but at the end of the day you want to look smart and you want to have really good food. All those tricky restaurants with tricky menus, they're all darlings basically of the food reviewers. They get press because they're new and nouvelle but they don't make money. 

Zagat: How did your life change after becoming an Iron Chef?
GZ: I'm blessed that I have a great wife and two kids and everything was going great until Iron Chef came along...and then it just became better. And people say to me: "You're a chef too? I thought you were just a judge." You can never negate people's perception. This world is about perception not reality. These people thought I was just a judge, they didn't know. But I've been cooking 32 years.


Post a Comment