Chef’s Table Season 3 Preview: Meet the Chefs
Ivan Orkin, Ivan Raman in New York City and Tokyo, Japan
After securing a college degree in Japanese, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working in prestige kitchens (Mesa Grill, Lutece and Restaurants Associates), Ivan Orkin, a self-described “Jewish Kid from Long Island,” accomplished the unlikely (if not the unthinkable) for a gaijin (a non-Japanese native)—he became one of the hottest names in Tokyo’s cult ramen scene after opening his first restaurant, Ivan Ramen, back in 2007.
He then cemented his status with a second joint, Ivan Ramen Plus, a mere three years later. His ramen was so good, Japan’s pre-eminent ramen critic Ohsaki-san once told Orkin, “When I ate [your] ramen, I realized it was not a halfway bowl, it was perfect. I saw that ramen’s history had changed here.” And, something called Ramen magazine named him Westerner “Rookie of the Year.”
Since then, Orkin’s opened two New York City outposts: Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop and a second Ivan Ramen. As was the case in Tokyo, at both of these new locations, seats are always full and tables are in hot demand, with people clamoring for hearty, comforting bowls of his specialties, like Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen or Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen. (Try Orkin’s recipe for Chile-Eggplant Mazeman Ramen with Pork Belly at home.)
Jeong Kwan, Chunjinam Hermitage at the Baekyangsa Temple, South Korea
When Jeong Kwan’s episode of Chef’s Table was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival’s Culinary Cinema on Tuesday night, it got a standing ovation from the crowd. Dubbed “The Philosopher Chef” by the New York Times, Kwan is a practicing Zen Buddhist nun, who has lived at the Baekyangsa Temple in South Korea, since she was 17-years-old.
Perhaps the most unconventional chef we are likely to see on the show, Kwan cooks vegan farm-to-table (everything is grown on-site at the temple) in the literal old-school way, using millennia-old original methods of fermentation, foraging and dehydrating that contemporary foodies have grown familiar with thanks to dining at rock star chefs’ tables. Her daily clients are the temple’s monks, nuns and visitors, including Eric Ripert, who is a Buddhist himself. (He’s been known to fly Kwan to New York City to cook traditional Korean Temple food for guests in a private room at Le Bernardin.)
Kwan cooks so that you can “overcome” hunger, rather than to provide culinary pleasure. Since attaining international renown, thanks largely to Ripert’s interest, the temple opened the Chunjinam Hermitage, a place where visitors can sample the traditional temple food that monks have eaten for centuries, like vegetable curry and gajuk, pickled chinaberry tree leaves.
Nancy Silverton, Mozza Restaurant Group with locations in California and Singapore
Nancy Silverton’s name is no doubt familiar to the legions that have bought her eight cookbooks, follow the James Beard Foundation Awards (she was crowned “Outstanding Chef” in 2014) and dined at one of her many restaurants around the world (some of which she co-owns with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich). Early in her career, we even named her a Food & Wine Best New Chef.
After working in renowned kitchens, including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and Jonathan Waxman’s Michael’s, she sparked a European-style bread making revolution at her La Brea Bakery, which helped popularize the current artisanal bread craze that we are currently enjoying. (Try her receipe for pasta with guanciale, radicchio and ricotta here.)
Despite being in charge of an international restaurant empire, Silverton still slips into her kitchens and cooks for her customers every day, a rarity among A-List chefs.
Tim Raue, Restaurant Tim Raue in Berlin, Germany
Tim Raue is a multiple Michelin-starred chef. At various points in his career, he was head chef and managing director at Berlin’s Riehmers Hofgarten hotel and executive chef and global culinary advisor at the Swissôtel Berlin. Raue got his first star in 2007 and earned a second for his eponymously named restaurant in 2012, at which Asian influences are mixed with German ingredients. (To this day, his Restaurant Tim Raue is booked solid for three months in advance, longer for weekend reservations.)
All of the above is impressive by itself, but then becomes doubly so when taking into account the fact that he was raised by an abusive father, grew up in one of West Berlin’s “poorest and toughest” immigrant communities and joined a street gang as a preteen. As he grew older, he found solace in a restaurant apprenticeship and then skyrocketed to the greatness you’ll learn more about in his episode of Chef’s Table.
Virgilio Martinez, Central Restaurante in Lima, Peru
Virgilio Martinez’s path to cooking sounds familiar. Not unlike an injured high school quarterback who turns to acting and then sweeps up at the Oscars, Martinez’s origin story is that skateboarding injuries put an end to his semi-pro skating career, leading him to a career in cooking and kudos including a Michelin star and a restaurant ranked fourth in the world.
A love of traveling resulted in Martinez attending Le Cordon Bleu and working in kitchens like Lutece, Can Fabes in Sant Celoni and a gig as executive chef at Astrid & Gaston locations in Bogata and Madrid, before opening up Central in Lima, to showcase the diversity of Peru’s native ingredients. He then opened Lima London in the UK, where he received his Michelin star in 2014 and continues to redefine the idea of Peruvian cooking with an eye towards sourcing ingredients through ecological monitoring, the same way the Andes people did in pre-Hispanic times.
Vladimir Mukhin, White Rabbit in Moscow, Russia
Hailed as one of the key players leading the charge of a new wave of Russian chefs, Vladimir Mukhin’s goal is to take Russian cuisine global by blending the latest culinary trends with traditional Russian dishes.
The son and grandson of chefs, it’s no surprised that Mukhin continued the family trade, although he’s definitely branched out from the ubiquitous Soviet mayonnaise-flavored cuisine he grew up eating in the ‘80s.
Mukhin’s cooking has garnered him a worldwide following and No. 18 position on the World’s Best Restaurants list, thanks to dishes like rabbit and mini cabbage rolls with foie gras, and roast suckling pig with Black Sea oysters.