December 15, 2010
Posted by DevouringDC
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking with Chef Spike Mendelsohn, the famed fedora-donning celebrity chef from Top Chef Season 4 and the current Top Chef All Stars. His resume is impressive to say the least. He was trained in classic French cuisine, received the highest honors one can get at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in world-renowned restaurants (that I will probably never get into) such as Les Crayeres, Bouchon and Le Cirque. He has studied on a culinary adventure in Vietnam and has worked with some of the best chefs in the world. Needless to say, I’m jealous. DC is lucky that we have not one, but two of Spike’s restaurants- Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza.
Chef Spike was kind enough to speak with me regarding some of his latest adventures and projects including teaming up with Mastercard and Suntrust for a donation to his favorite charity, Horton's Kids which provides tutoring, mentoring and support to children in DC.
DDC: Can I get your thoughts on the current season of Top Chef All Stars- how it's going and how is it different from your first Top Chef experience?
Chef Spike: My first experience I didn't have anything to lose. I was a kitchen rat and had a good resume. I was just myself. This time around, I've had opportunities with cookbooks, events, charities, and restaurants. Now I'm representing more than just myself. I have a more laid back approach.
DDC: What are your thoughts about the last episode of Top Chef All Stars with Jen leaving and the drama of Jamie's finger cut?
Chef Spike: The finger cut, yeah. We've all cut ourselves in the kitchen. Definitely wasn't warranted to be rushed off to the hospital. I was really disappointed in Jamie. She put the extra work on Jen. I thought it was weak. I mean they were on the other team so I was laughing it up but I thought it was weak. On Jen leaving- We were all surprised. It just shows the intensity and how competitive it is. Any one of us could be sent home at any time over a couple granules of salt or something.
DDC: Anything you can share about the next episode?
Chef Spike: All I can really share is it definitely should be one of the all-time best quick fires.
DDC: I want to touch on some memories from Top Chef Season 4. Are there any fun things that happened and didn't make the episodes that aired?
Chef Spike: I remember we were playing cards one night and Antonia wouldn’t show us her hand so we dragged her around on the floor. It was a long time ago, but we had a lot of fun, silly moments.
DDC: What’s your favorite dish you ever made on Top Chef?
Chef Spike: Butternut squash soup for the Improv on Season 4- definitely. I also loved having the opportunity to remake the scallop dish the way it should be and got a shout-out from Bourdain. That was pretty amazing!
DDC: Can you tell me a little more about teaming up with Mastercard and Suntrust for their Marketplace to support your favorite charity?
Chef Spike: They donated $5,000 on my behalf that will go to buy gifts from the marketplace for Horton's Kids in Anacostia. It's for all Mastercard holders. [You get] free access to hundreds of discounts and it’s great for last minute online shopping for the holidays. You can also use it to donate to charity directly if you wanted to donate to Horton's Kids.
DDC: That’s awesome! It’s great that they donated to the children and that people can log on and easily do the same.
Chef Spike: Yeah, It’s going to be great. I’m going today to hand out gifts to them.
DDC: For people doing last minute shopping, do you have any favorite retailers or gifts on there?
Chef Spike: Omaha Steaks is great. You can donate them to a charity or send as a gift. Barnes & Noble is also on there (which carries my cookbook, too.)
DDC: Speaking of holidays, do you and your family have any Holiday traditions or holiday food traditions?
Chef Spike: We change it up every year in my family. This year we are going to Puerto Rico. Maybe I'll do some traditional Puerto Rican food or maybe roast a pig or something. Who knows!
DDC: That’s awesome. Way to do the holidays in style! For those of us not lucky enough to go to Puerto Rico, do you have any holiday tips?
Chef Spike: Ha, yeah. I’d just say keep it simple, easy and comfortable. It's all about being with family. We will get together and do a lot of comfort food- mac n' cheese, turkey, cornbread, mashed potatoes. It’s all about comfort.
DDC: Do you have any special Holiday additions to menus at your restaurants?
Chef Spike: Well, not really. I mean, it’s pizza and burgers. We just celebrate by being festive, but we do have an Eggnog milkshake.
DDC: That sounds awesome. I assume that's the non-adult version?
Chef Spike: ha, yeah, non-adult, although if you want an adult version I suppose you can ask a certain way, haha.
DDC: Ok, one more thing I have to ask, how many fedoras do you own?
Chef Spike: Hmm, I'd say about 65. Yeah, 65. I've been giving a bunch away lately.
DDC: Do you get a lot as gifts?
Chef Spike: Yeah, people do send me fedoras a lot. I'm the guy that wears the hat.
DDC: Thank you so much for your time and sharing with Devouring DC Readers. Be sure to let me know if you ever open a place in the Bay area!
Chef Spike: Definitely! I love San Francisco. Definitely get brunch at Mama's on the waterfront. Monte Cristo with jam. The best brunch!
(FYI- I will be going there first chance I get!)
Be sure to watch Chef Spike on Top Chef All Stars tonight at 10/9c on Bravo. Below is more information on the Mastercard/Suntrust Marketplace, Spike’s Restaurants and Horton’s Kids.
Last but not least- Happy Birthday Spike! Hope you have a great day, great holiday season and a Happy New Year. Best of luck on Top Chef!
Mastercard/Suntrust Marketplace- click here.
110 Maryland Avenue, NE Suite 207
Washington, DC 20002
Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
We, The Pizza
305 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003