Food & Winewelcomed Stephanie Izard—chef-owner of Chicago's Girl & the Goat, Best New Chef 2011 and winner of Top Chef Season 4—to our Facebook page. In a live Q&A, Izard shared advice for aspiring Top Chef contestants, at-home cooking tips and her favorite restaurants.


In this Chat:

The Top Chef Experience

Question: Any suggestions on how TC hopefuls can get noticed during an open call?
Stephanie Izard: Have a BIG personality! I never did open call but they definitely want some fun people!

Question: Hi Stephanie! Loved your season of Top Chef! How exactly did the prize money from your win help you segue to the next step in your career?
Stephanie Izard: The money did not do much (opening a place takes a bit of $), but it helped opened doors to investors and other opportunities.

Question: Hi Stephanie! Was just wondering if you keep in touch with any of the other chefs from Season 4 on Top Chef?
Stephanie Izard: Yup! I talk to Antonia the most out of anyone; we became really good friends while filming. I have been friends with Dale for years so we talk here and there and always will. Other than that, I cross paths with the rest of the chefs often at events. But when we get together, it is always a party.

Inspirations and Plans for the Future

Question: Stephanie, I love your episodes of the Tasty Life. What inspires you to write, research, and film?
Stephanie Izard: Oh thanks! I filmed those before we opened as I was out and about checking out products for the new place. I often get out and see some really cool food things and it is just fun to share!

Question: Hey Stephanie! Where do you get your inspiration when creating new recipes?
Stephanie Izard: I just read a lot of food magazines and such and try to eat out when I get a chance to keep me thinking about food. Mostly, I just order in a new product, taste it with my cooks, and make something up!

Question: Do you have any plans to publish a cookbook?
Stephanie Izard: Yes, my first book Girl in the Kitchen, from Chronicle, hits shelves this fall. Just started writing the first one from Girl & the Goat too!

Question: Hi Stephanie, I'm a Northwestern graduate student and food/nutrition reporter for the Medill News Service. In Chicago, urban agriculture seems to be gaining increased popularity, and a lot of restaurants are sourcing locally. What impact do you think the local food and urban agriculture movements have on the future of the food service industry?
Stephanie Izard: Huge impact! We work with as many local products as we can and try to support small farms. I think we will be seeing more and more farms IN the city as the ones just outside the city continue to grow. I think it's great that the farmers markets are getting bigger and bigger too. Huge supporter of the Green City Market...

Question: Hi Chef Stephanie! Do you plan to do cooking demonstrations and do cookbook signings like Chef Rick Bayless and Chef Eric Ripert (to name a few) for fans in the future? :)
Stephanie Izard: Yes! Now that the restaurant is up and running smooth, I will be out and about more. Also, will be on book tour this fall! Can't wait to get back out around the country a bit!

Cooking Tips

Question: Hi Chef Stephanie - I'm sure you can relate at some point in your life to a girl on a serious budget! What is one of your favorite "cheapie" ingredients to use in recipes?
Stephanie Izard: Chickpeas.

Question: Hi Stephanie! On TC there was an episode where some famous chefs talk about their last meal, which would be yours?
Stephanie Izard: Toro (tuna belly) and French fries with ranch. On separate plates of course.

Question: Do you ever make your own sushi?
Stephanie Izard: I love rolling sushi. Then you can do whatever combos you want. I am a sucker for a dab of cream cheese in some rolls :) Great party to have, just put out fillings and let guests roll their own.

Question: Hi Stephanie, we had a great time at your restaurant on January 3rd. Was watching Chopped over the weekend and one of the "mandatory" ingredients was goat brains as an appetizer. None of the 4 competitors presented anything that even looked appetizing. How would you prepare goat brains?
Stephanie Izard: I like to cook them like sweetbreads, ending up with a nice crispy nugget type morsel. Serve with a spicy and tangy topper...almost like wings.

Question: What brand kitchen knives do you use and what was your favorite dish that you cooked on the show. Also if they ever did a Top Chef Champions show, would you do it?
Stephanie Izard: I use Kikuichi knives, they are Japanese. Lee Anne Wong, who was the Supervising Culinary Producer for Top Chef, gave me one that is pretty sweet! Looking back, I do not love any of the dishes I made, but the lamb with braised pistachios was ok. Honestly, it would be fun to go back and visit... but I am currently in the process of opening restaurant #2 and the idea of competing on Top Chef again is not even an option.

Question: Stephanie—aside from your knives, what is your favorite tool in the kitchen?
Stephanie Izard: Blender—I love making vinaigrettes and purees and soups. A good blender makes all the difference!

Where She Likes to Eat

Question: Hi Stephanie, what are your favorite restaurants in Chicago?
Stephanie Izard: Avec, The Bristol, Urban Belly, Belly Shack, Hot Chocolate.

Question: Where do you find the best Old Fashioned cocktail in Chicago? I had a pretty stellar one last Friday at Twisted Spoke. Cheers!
Stephanie Izard: Matchbox always has good cocktails, and Gilt. We have some pretty good ones here too. In about a month we will have our house barrel aged bourbon that I picked out at Buffalo Trace. You will have to come get one when they are ready!

Question: Hi Stephanie. Wife and I are huge fans. What's your favorite late night hangout after The Goat closes?
Stephanie Izard: Bonnie's is fun since I can dance in my chef pants and a hoodie and not feel like an idiot. Paramount is fun and close by. And Maude's just opened up. Also, sushi at Sushi Wabi if I cut out a little early. Always hungry after a long day at The Goat!

Question: Hi Stephanie! What is your favorite foodie city, other than Chicago?
Stephanie Izard: I would like to get back to Portland. I think the Pacific Northwest has the most amazing local products to work with. Makes me jealous some times. :)

Question: Hi Stephanie! Do you have any favorite restaurants in NYC?
Stephanie Izard: Fatty Crab is my fav—lots of flavor just like we do out here.

Question: Where are your favorite places to eat when you are in Los Angeles?
Stephanie Izard: Tough one. I just hung out with Mike Voltaggio and asked him to show me around next time I am out there since I do not know the city that well. Of course Animal is supposed to be awesome and the owners are great!

Restaurant Industry Advice

Question: Stephanie, I'm a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento, CA, can you tell me what was the best thing you did in school?
Stephanie Izard: I had a blast! Worked hard and tried to take as much away as possible. Make sure you work at lots of restaurants while in school (stage at many, meaning work for a day for free) so you can learn a lot and see what kind of place you enjoy. Ask lots of questions and do as many extra events as you can. The teachers are good resources so use them. Also try to get in to some local restaurants and hang out when you have free time. SO worth it!

Question: Chef Stephanie, do you find that being a chef lends time to have much in the way of family or relationships (you or your peers)?
Stephanie Izard: No it does not. I have had to give up a lot in that part of life, but my staff at The Goat are my family and friends to me. You can make time—it just gets a little tricky!

Question: Hello Stephanie! In this day and age where the culinary world is very different from just a few years ago, what is your most memorable experience—or your opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of being a chef who just happens to be a woman?
Stephanie Izard: I think as long as you can hold your own in the kitchen (can be physically challenging) and you are not offended easily (boys can be a bit much) you can kick ass!


Video Q&A with Stephanie Izard