Quintessence - Raw Chef Dan - New York, NY - Side Dish

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chef: "raw chef dan"
location: quintessence, new york, ny
recipe: raw chef dan's cardamom sugarsnap peas

side dish tv:
why is raw food important?

Culinary influences?
Basically, I try to create foods that I used to eat in their raw versions. I've been in New York City for over 25 years now, so I used to go out all over, everywhere. Spanish restaurant or Thai restaurant, Italian, French, Vietnamese… French-Vietnamese! There's everything in New York. My favorite foods are Asian-influenced. In raw food, those can be pretty easy things to do.

Where did you learn to prepare raw and living food? —are you self-taught or did you have formal training?
Well when I started, there wasn't anybody to learn from. The things I'm creating are probably two steps ahead of everybody else.

Favorite "cook" book?
I've never used a cookbook. Actually if I want to make something I've never made before, I'll Google it or use a cookbook to get the basics —say Thai green curry. If I want to know what spices are in that traditionally, I'll look in a Thai cookbook.

What's the one ingredient you could not live without?

Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
Mostly what I listen to is what they call down-tempo. Thievery Corporation. A lot of Thievery Corporation. When I drive in New York, it's like Tool and Korn…when I'm cleaning the apartment it's like Enya.

Most memorable meal?
It's not just the food, it's the atmosphere. A meal on the side of the mountain in Japan was pretty memorable. But a really cool raw food dinner in your own apartment is pretty good.

Most memorable dinner guest?
Famous people are the ones that stick in your mind. I think Woody Harrelson. He's exactly like he is in his films, like how he was in Cheers. He is the character.

What makes indie food better?
There's two answers to that question. I think any indie restaurant is going to be focused around the chef, the food and the cuisine, so a lot of personal attention is coming to the table —whereas a chain is a money-focused business where the food comes in a can or frozen package that's been processed or created in Colorado somewhere. Those food products are the chemical, artificially flavored food stuff —things that are edible but not good food. Which brings me to the second part of the answer.

A restaurant like this one brings it to the next level, where it's really all about the quality of food. None of it is processed. Every single thing served here is made here: the salad dressing, the ketchup, the mustard, the mayonnaise. Everything is made from fresh ingredients instead of out of a package. Even at a famous expensive restaurant, the chef is still going to buy packaged food and they are going to go into the kitchen and give personal attention to what they're creating, but those ingredients aren't necessarily healthy or environmentally conscious in any way.

Here it's a whole other story. People come here not only because the food is great or they want to be healthy, but because we're not destroying the environment, we're not using labor in India. There is a difference between plastic cups made from corn and plastic cups made from vinyl. We think about that stuff.

—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