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Top Chef's Dale Talde: "Anyone Who Says They Can't Cook Just Isn't Trying"
The NYC restaurateur turned author talks writing his first cookbook and redefining comfort food.
Dale Talde has opened multiple restaurants since his memorable time on Top Chef and Top Chef: All-Stars, and now he's helping you bring his beloved take on comfort food to your dinner table with his first cookbook. Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn is comprised of favorites from the menus of New York's Talde, Pork Slope, and Thistle Hill Tavern. The book helps bring his inventive concepts to the masses, as Dale believes cooking is something everyone can do in — no excuses. "Every man should be able to at least cook a proper steak for his wife, mother, or girlfriend," he tells The Daily Dish. "It doesn't take a lot to cook and prepare great food — for steak it's a handful of ingredients: steak, salt, pepper, oil, butter, and a pan."
Asian-American is the latest in a series of successes for Dale, who is hosting a Talde pop up in Miami Beach later this month. Of course, there's another milestone on his horizon: his wedding day. Read on for more from the Chicago native turned Brooklyn tastemaker.
After opening several successful restaurants, why do you want to share your recipes with the world?
First of all, thank you. We'll see how successful they really are after a few years. Well, it was really more people telling me to write a book because quite honestly I had no interest in it. I owe a lot of it to Lauren Smythe — she kept coming in, she was a regular at Talde Brooklyn who just kept saying that I should write a book. After a while, she finally convinced me to do it.
Are some favorites from Talde, Pork Slope, and Thistle Hill Tavern included in the book? How many new additions are there?
Of course. A lot of the book is based primarily on the recipes we do at Talde, Pork Slope, and Thistle Hill Tavern. There are probably 10 or so new ones, but it's mainly what we already do.
Are there any recipes people will be surprised by?
Our House Hot Sauce. It's Half sriracha and half Frank's Red Hot and it's delicious. I feel like it really embodies our style and what we're known for.
What is comfort food to you?
Comfort food is anything nostalgic. Anything that takes you back to a time or a place when things were less complicated. For me, it's anything from a bowl of pasta to a plate of rice with Spam.
How do you respond to people who say, “I can’t cook?” Do you believe everyone can cook?
Anyone who says they can't cook just isn't trying. Like, it's not easy, but every man should be able to at least cook a proper steak for his wife, mother, or girlfriend. It doesn't take a lot to cook and prepare great food — for steak it's a handful of ingredients: steak, salt, pepper, oil, butter, and a pan. You can even get fancier with it. Everyone can cook.
Did you always want to be a business owner? Did Top Chef inspire you to move in that direction?
Definitely, I always knew I wanted to own my own place and be a business owner and it's a blessing that I own multiple spots. Top Chef definitely helped for sure, but I always knew. I don't discredit that I'm living out exactly what I want to do.
How is each outpost of Talde influenced by its city and/or neighborhood?
They're influenced by the guests and the customers. You see these guests every day and you see what kind of food they're into, what's selling, and what's not. Like in Jersey City, there are more Filipinos, so I try to incorporate more Filipino-influenced dishes. In Miami, you can't help but lighten up the menu, but we're still standing by who we are. In Brooklyn, the clientele is always changing, so you'll notice that our menu changes as well — more seasonal items, etc.
Would you be game to visit Top Chef as a guest judge?
That's not my decision to make, but I'd love to!
You’re getting married this fall. What kind of food will be on the menu? Will you be doing any of the cooking?
The restaurants are catering, but I will not be cooking with the chefs. Our menu is made up of all our favorite foods: Korean, Filipino, steak, lobster, fried chicken, pizza. We'll see all that and more.