Table Talk with Chef Titus Wang

Current Gig
Executive Sous Chef, Delicatessen

About the Chef
Chef Titus Wang began his culinary career at Annisa under the guidance of Chef Anita Lo. He started off as a grill cook and worked his way up to Sous Chef. Eight years later, he left Annisa to become the Executive Sous Chef at Delicatessen in SoHo, a restaurant known for its international comfort food.

Delicatessen: 54 Prince Street (at Lafayette)

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Chef Titus Wang at Delicatessen

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Taiwan and lived there until I was thirteen. The memories I have of Taiwan are of the night markets and the street food. When we came to the United States, we moved to NJ and I went to engineering school at Rutgers University. I only stayed for a year. I realized that I didn’t want to do that with my life, I wanted to cook.

What did you enjoy eating most as a kid?
I always liked to hang around in the kitchen with my mom when she cooked. She makes a cold jellyfish dish that is marinated in garlic and soy sauce. The texture is amazing – crunchy and chewy – with the delicious flavors of garlic and soy. It’s really nice with beers. (Laughing)

At the moment, what is your favorite ingredient and what do you like to make with it?
I always love raw fish. I like seared or almost raw preparations – those are my favorite. If you have great quality ingredients, you don’t need to do much to it.  I love kampachi – it’s one of my favorite fishes. It’s so fatty yet so refreshing.  Kampachi is great in tartares and ceviches.

What kitchen items are important for a home cook to own?
For home cooks, it’s very important to have a sharp knife.  That’s half of the cutting. The other half is your actual knife skill. You don’t want to butcher a fish or debone it with a plastic knife – it’s not going to work. (Laughing)  You’re going to waste a lot of food. If you have a ten ounce rib eye, it will turn into six ounces. I’d also recommend having a lot of clean kitchen towels on hand. People often have only one kitchen towel that is either wet or dirty. When you try to grab a hot pan with a wet towel, the heat goes through the towel and steams your hands. Steam burns are some of the worst burns you can get!

If your food were music, what music style(s) would it be and why?
I think it would be classical… with a little bit of hip-hop. (Laughing)  I chose classical music because I have classical French training as a chef. Before this, I used to work at Annisa with Anita Lo. It was a really amazing experience.  I started my career there and learned everything from her. She worked on the line most of the time, so I worked side by side with her for eight years. She’s also classically trained and we experimented with many different ingredients at Annisa. Here at Delicatessen, we are doing international comfort food. We play around with ingredients from all over the world while still applying basic French techniques. We try to incorporate something fun, too, which is where the hip hop comes in. (Smiling)

Where are your favorite places to travel for the cuisine?
I was just in Paris with our executive chef, Michael, last spring for a demo. We went all over the city and tried everything from fine dining to casual dining – it was great.  I also went to Japan a few years ago and it was amazing. The sushi and sashimi are cheap and so much better than any restaurant I’ve been to.  I have always heard good things about Spain and have always wanted to go to Barcelona. I’d also like to go to Southeast Asia. I love street food – that’s where you learn the culture.

If you had not gone the culinary route, what would you have done instead?
If I weren’t a chef, I would be a cop. Because I love drama. And I’d get to catch criminals. (Laughing)

Which chef do you admire most right now?
I have to say Anita Lo. She taught me everything. She’s one of the only celebrity chefs who still works on the line day in and day out. She doesn’t talk a lot, but she is a really great teacher.

When you get a chance to dine out, where do you like to go?
I just went to Le Bernardin. Chef Eric Ripert is the god of seafood!  Sometime in my life, I want to work for him. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. Everything was done right. His dishes are not overly complicated in terms of plating and are also not pretentious. The consistency is just perfect.

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?
Oh my God. (Laughing) I can’t give up meat or fish. Fat is flavor, so I can’t give up fat. (More laughter) I guess I could give up starch. But I love noodles! Ok, I choose dairy. There’s not much dairy in Asian food. I can’t give up noodles or fried chicken, so I’m going with dairy. I don’t want to, but if I have to… (Laughing)

Table Talk with Chef Titus Wang