Presented by Nation's Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, the MenuMasters Awards honor culinary excellence in menu development.
Stephanie Izard is a celebrity chef, a James Beard award winner, and the chef and partner of three critically acclaimed Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat.
Izard gained fame when she became the first woman to win Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” cooking competition in 2008. Since then, she has proven herself to be among the industry’s most innovative chefs, as well as a consummate businessperson.
In addition to running three successful restaurants, Izard recently launched a product line called Goat Goods, consisting of sauces and spices for home cooks.
She’s preparing for the fall 2017 debut of Goatfish, her new quarterly food, travel and adventure magazine. And she’s at work on her second cookbook, to be released in spring 2018.
Izard opened up about her creative process, what she’s drinking now and what she cooks at home.
How do you think up new dishes?
I draw a lot of inspiration from different cultures… so much inspiration from travel. If I’m reading about something, combing through a magazine on an airplane, I take a picture of [it] on my phone to remind me. I use the notebook on the phone. I take scrap paper and make notes while I expedite… then I take pictures of my scribble-scrabble.
What techniques do you currently love?
As much wood-fired as we can do. I just love the flavor of it. Two of the three restaurants have a wood-fired grill. We grill pork belly from raw. [We put] a quarter-inch piece of raw pork belly right over the flame with a fish sauce marinade. It caramelizes the sugar, melts the fat just enough. We even have [a wood-fired grill] in the Chinese restaurant [Duck Duck Goat] — not something you’d expect to find in a Chinese restaurant. Our beef and broccoli is done on the wood-fired grill. To add a ton of flavor, you don’t need to rely on fats for flavor.
Your restaurants serve a lot of innovative cocktails. What are you drinking lately?
I get very excited when bartenders bring me new things to taste. We’re working on getting baijiu [a Chinese sorghum spirit]. We just got a list, finally found a source. Mezcal is one of my other favorites. I love the smokiness of the wood-fired grill, so I also love the smokiness of mezcal.
What do you typically cook at home?
My husband and I eat really simply at home. We use a rice cooker and eat stir-fry and rice. We have a wood-fired grill at home with a rotisserie. When I’m a little ambitious, when we have people coming over… we serve a whole duck on the rotisserie. I go shopping in my restaurants, whatever proteins we have.