Q&A with Peter Cho

09/27/2006 12:00 AM |

The Spotted Pig • 314 W 11th St.
The gastropub originated in England as the answer for boozers with a taste for something more refined than a pork pie or a ploughman’s lunch. In New York, the Spotted Pig is the preeminent destination for the diner whose serious palette matches his serious drinking habit. Celebrities, chefs, and celebrity-chefs all make their way to this cozy tavern in the West Village for a taste of head chef April Bloomfield’s upscale pub grub.

The L: You walked into the spotted pig just over a year ago with absolutely zero restaurant experience. Did you know what you were getting into?
Peter Cho: Not a clue. I was inspired to be a cook after reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, so that’s all I knew about what it was like to work in a kitchen in New York. I had no idea that I was walking into one of the busiest, most popular restaurants in the city.

The L: How did you get the job?
PC: I walked in, talked to the owner about getting a job in the kitchen and then talked to the chef (April) who told me to come in the next day with a few things and make her a dish. I freaked out, since I was just a recreational home cook. She must’ve thought it was ok, because she asked me to stay for the rest of the night. After dicing a huge pile of onions, which I had never really done before, she told me I could start full-time the next day.

The L: The chef asked you to make her a dish? What did you cook for her?
PC: A whole branzini (it’s a type of sea bass) with sautéed baby squash and arugula salad.

The L: Do you still get yelled at in the kitchen?
PC: Not really. I get stern warnings like, “That’s the last fish you’re going to overcook tonight.” Still as effective.

The L: How did things change when the Spotted Pig was awarded a Michelin Star?
PC: More chefs and people in the industry come in to eat. Especially since the kitchen’s open until 2am.

The L: You’re used to cooking for movie stars and musicians, but last week the Pig hosted Gourmet Magazine’s restaurant issue party. What was it like preparing food for culinary royalty like Ruth Reichl, Mario Batali, and Gray Kunz?
PC: The party was really to honor our chef, April, so we were all excited for her.  As far as celebrities go, the kitchen and front of the house have gotten used to it. But we (the kitchen) still get pretty edgy when big-time chefs come in.

The L: Where do you eat when you’re not working?
PC: Being Korean I get my fix at Kun Jip in K-town. When I’m with my girlfriend, I love getting sushi at Sakura in Park Slope. And about 3-4 times a week I get tacos after my shift at a truck on the corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue called Taco El Idolo. They have the best tacos in Manhattan and they’re open ‘til six in the morning.