The Stephanie Izard Interview

Today I chat with the winner of Season 4 of Bravo's Top Chef, Stephanie Izard. She was the executive chef and owner of the Chicago restaurant Scylla, and now she's working on opening another place in the city.

Who have been some of your favorite Top Chef contestants on seasons other than the 4th?
I was a big fan of Lee Anne's the first season, and thought she was going to win! Also Dale Levitski from season 3. Of course I am a bit biased since we are long time friends but it was so much fun to watch a friend on the show.

Have you seen any challenges this season that you felt relief that you didn't have to encounter?

Maybe the Quickfire with the canned foods. Although I am a big fan of Spam....

Do you watch much reality TV? What shows?
Just Top Chef and Project Runway. I can see how American Idol can be addictive but I usually wait and catch the last few episodes of the season.

What's been the best meal you've eaten lately?

Noca in Scottsdale, AZ. It is relatively new, and the food was very impressive. I can still taste the chestnut soup.

What are some culinary trends you'd like to see go away?
Most of what I have noticed right now is the use of local and organic ingredients which I think is great. I think most chefs are moving in the right direction.

What are some of the things you have the hardest time cooking well?

Baking bread. It is an art form in itself.

What was your favorite meal as a kid?

Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.

In the culinary world, what's Chicago's reputation as a restaurant town?
I would say that most of the culinary world has its eye on Chicago right now as the restaurant scene continues to grow.

Does the culinary world favor male chefs? If so, why?

I would like to think not, there just seem to be more men at the moment. I think there are more and more strong women emerging in the culinary world.

What's your most-used ingredient?

What's the last thing you tried to make that you really screwed up?

Saag Paneer.

What's currently your favorite kitchen gadget?
I am pretty simple, my blender gets the most use.

What are you working on now? Do you have a new restaurant in the works?
I have a few projects going on. Working on a cook book, a web show that should be out by the first week of February, my website that will have recipes, blogs and videos, and also a new restaurant. We are aiming at an early fall '09 opening for The Drunken Goat in Chicago.

What did you do with the Glad products you won?

From Glad I received the cash prize which I first used to pay off old debts, and now am using to invest in new projects. The kitchen that I won was donated to Common Threads, a charity for children in Chicago.

What's been the worst injury you've seen in the kitchen?

A guy in my culinary school tripped in the kitchen and his arm landed on the flat top. It tends to stick for a minute.

What's your favorite edible guilty pleasure?
Laughing Cow cheese.

How does it feel to be the 224th person interviewed for

Makes me want to go to the site and check out the other 223 interviews, which I am doing right now...