Table Talk with Chef Laurence Edelman

Current Gig
Executive Chef and Owner, Left Bank

About the Chef
Chef Laurence Edelman began his culinary career by shucking oysters at Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar in New Orleans during undergrad. After finishing school, he moved to Boston and worked at several upscale restaurants – Upstairs at the Pudding, L’Espalier, and Sel de la Terre – before settling in New York City. Here in Manhattan, Chef Edelman learned how to make Italian pastas at Felidia and spent a number of years at The Red Cat as Sous Chef. He describes his time at The Red Cat with Chefs Jimmy Bradley and Bill McDaniel as “transformative”. Chef Edelman went on to work at Barbuto under Jonathan Waxman and then became the Executive Chef at The Mermaid Inn and The Mermaid Oyster Bar. Two years ago, he opened Left Bank, which is known for its fresh, seasonal American cuisine.

Left Bank: 117 Perry Street (at Greenwich Street)

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Chef Laurence Edelman outside of Left Bank

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. It’s a suburban town. I had a really nice childhood there.

What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
The parents of one of my best friends used to drive into the city to Zabar’s every weekend. They had a station wagon.  When they came back home, they would pull that station wagon into their driveway and I would just be there, waiting. (Laughing)  By the way, we’re still really close friends, and I buy meat from him now.

At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
This year has been very strange for vegetables. It took a long time for things to show up at the markets. Zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes finally started to come around – they’re great. But mostly it’s about fruit for me this year, which is kind of rare because I’ve never been super into fruit. In particular, the peaches, especially white peaches, which we have made pies with at the restaurant. I’ve been doing a lot of baking this year.

What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
Besides a good knife, good cutting board, and heavy pots and pans, I’d say one black steel pan that you only use for eggs. You never wash it, you just wipe it out and that’s it. Just use it for simple eggs, nothing fancy. No cheese or anything else. There’s also a can opener that you can get from Korin, a Japanese company. We have one in the Left Bank kitchen – it’s really handy!

If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
I would say Jazz because it’s very improvisational, like my food. I pretty much decide in the moment what a dish is going to be like.

Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
Vietnam was an incredible food experience. We were there for two weeks and it was incredible. We took tours of the markets, and we had an interpreter and a guide with us. There’s not a lot of refrigeration where we were in Hanoi. People go to the markets three times a day – every meal they go to the market to buy what’s there, it’s all alive and very fresh.  That was pretty amazing. I like to go to Paris for anything baked. And I really want to go to Vienna next.

If you had not gone the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. I have a camera now and I take pictures on my iPhone. Instagram is where most of them end up.  At the time, I thought it was the coolest job you could have. You get to travel and you’ve got to really…  get down in the bush. Know what I mean? (Laughing)

Which chef do you admire most right now?
That’s a really good question and a really hard one to answer. There are so many great chefs out there. I think the chef who is kicking the most ass right now is Justin Smillie, the Executive Chef at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria. He has something in him that makes him stronger than most other people that I know. He’s incredible to watch. He is also impossible to work for, but he’s incredibly talented. (Laughing)

When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
Left Bank opened two years ago, and I haven’t done as much dining out as I’d like to. But I do go and check out other West Village restaurants to see who’s in the neighborhood and what people are eating. I know I just mentioned Il Buco, but that’s a really good one.

If you had to give up one of the five food groups (Bread & Potatoes; Milk & Dairy; Meat & Fish; Fat & Sugar; Fruits & Vegetables) and could not eat anything from that group for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
This is impossible! (Laughing) I can’t give up bread and potatoes – that equals pasta. I’m so depressed right now just thinking about it.  (More laughter)  I don’t know… probably Milk and Dairy. I just wouldn’t have cheese anymore, which would be terrible, but I could survive. The rest of the stuff I need too badly!

Table Talk with Chef Laurence Edelman