Cafe DeWitt - Josh Eckenrode - Ithaca, NY - Side Dish

side dish - what's stirring in indie kitchens

Side Dish!

head chef: josh eckenrode
location: cafe deWitt - ithaca, ny
recipe: scalloped kohlrabi

Culinary influences?
It goes back to cooking with my parents when I was a child. We were the kind of family that cooked together, for almost every meal. From an early age I can remember watching Julia Child on TV and being amazed by what she created. I'm always influenced by the people I work with as well —my business partner Sigrid and guys in the kitchen, Julian and Brent. We're always talking about food.

Where did you learn to cook? —are you self-taught or did you have formal training?
I am totally self-taught. I've been cooking as long as I can stand.

Favorite cookbook?
Marcus Samuelsson's Aquavit. I love Marcus' flavor combinations —the two influences, growing up in Sweden and his heritage from Africa creates such a unique flavor base. I also love Thomas Keller's Bouchon. It's just classic, amazing food.

What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
That's an easy one, and every chef should say the same thing: salt!

Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
I like to drink German hefeweizens direct from Germany.

Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
Depending on what mood I'm in: Pink Floyd, Phish, Tool and Alice in Chains.

What is your favorite type of food?
My personal favorites are Mexican and Japanese. A lot of the food I like to create combines these two cuisines, which can get a little interesting!

Most memorable meal?
It sounds kind of funny, but the most memorable meal I've had was at my favorite pizza place in Boston called Pizzeria Regina. My wife and I were recently married and we took a little trip to Boston and I've never had more fun!

Most memorable dinner guest?
My favorite people I eat with are some of my regular customers. They're my family. I respect them and their opinions most.

Most irritating celebrity chef?
I have two in particular: Rachel Ray —she drives me crazy —and I'm not a big fan of Bobby Flay. I respect his ability to cook and create and he's a great businessman, but I don't like that big-persona-arrogance type of chef.

What makes indie food better?
That's got to be the easiest question you asked! Everything makes indie food better than chains: the creativity, the freedom, the ability to change your menu, and what you can get in terms of your local produce, cheese, meat and all your supplies. If you're truly an indie restaurant, you must be using local or at least regional ingredients. The chains have such a disconnect, not cooking what's appropriate to the area or the season. They're creating a mass market. That's what makes indie food so much better. You're not part of this mass market, cookie-cutter movement to make food appeal to the masses. You are really differentiating yourself by being an indie restaurant.



—Rebecca Troutman, Associate Editor, rebecca@dineindie.com

Do you know a chef who would be great for Side Dish, contact:
Robyn Jasko, Editor, robyn@dineindie.com