Tips and NYC Restaurant Picks From Soulayphet "Phet" Schwader
Part one of my interview with Soulayphet "Phet" Schwader ran yesterday, and the Khe-Yo chef talked about his philosophy in the kitchen, his background, and his thoughts on the New York restaurant industry at large. Here in part two, Schwader gets specific divulging restaurants he frequents and lays down some kitchen tips for professional and home cooks.
What chefs or food people do you most admire?
Thomas Keller. Every time I read an article about him or see him in an interview, he teaches me something new. He's such a smart chef. Marc [Forgione]. He's such a creative force and people are just naturally drawn to him, but he's so unpretentious even though he's on TV and has all these restaurants. Working for Marc is working with the laid-back, down-to-earth chef in the public eye. He gets on the line and cooks.
What brand of knife do you use and why?
Korin is right over here, so a lot of my knives are from Korin. My go-to is a Wusthof 10-inch chef's knife. It's like the workhorse. Onions, celery, carrot, bulk. For finer work, I'll use the Japanese knives. I tell my cooks when they start cooking not to go get a Japanese knife. Get a German knife. Practice sharpening it. German steel can take a beating.
Are you partial to any of your spoons?
Oh yeah. And it's not even a good spoon. It's like an 1810 Oneida. Once I lose it in the kitchen, everyone knows that I've lost it, because I ask everyone, "Have you seen my spoon? Have you seen my spoon?"
What's the most underrated kitchen tool?
A Swiss peeler. Saturday nights, we run out of papaya and have to peel it to order. If I have to peel it with something else, it's like, why am I in the weeds?
Favorite item in your pantry or walk-in?
Kaffir lime leaf. It's bright and citrusy and goes in so many dishes that I cook. It's part of what I grew up with, and it's fun to teach people about it if they've never smelled or tasted it. If I could get kaffir lime, that would be even better. I found it at one Thai grocery store, but it's like $10 for two limes.
What's the most underrated ingredient?
Rice. My signature dish is coconut rice balls. I sold 40 orders last night. It's insane how much rice I make. It's always time to make the coconut rice balls.
At what local bar or restaurant are you a regular?
I really like Ippudo on my days off. It's just comforting. The Raccoon Eyes. The Reade Street Pub. If I don't go out to eat, I get Katz's or Lombardi's delivery.