Chatting with Spike Mendelsohn, a Co-Host on Kitchen Sink
Though Spike Mendelsohn calls Washington, D.C., home, chances are good that fans from coast to coast know him and his many restaurants. He and his family run multiple restaurant concepts, including Good Stuff Eatery, which specializes in juicy, satisfying, craveworthy burgers. But as Spike explained when we caught up with him on the set of Kitchen Sink, his culinary chops go well beyond the burger. "I’m a little bit all over the place," he said, noting his experience with pizza, fine-dining and international cuisines alike. Read on below to hear more from Spike and get his take on what's ahead on Kitchen Sink.
What can fans expect to see from you on Kitchen Sink? What will you be bringing to the party?
Spike Mendelsohn: I’m going to bring a lot of experience to the party. I've been cooking in the business for years, since I was a little kid, so I’ve done pretty much anything in the business. If they need me to washes on the Kitchen Sink, which it sounds like they might need me, I’ll be the perfect candidate for that. I’m just going to bring my fun and my experiences, and a lot of my experiences are travels and different cultures and cuisines and fun.
Do you tend to gravitate towards a specific cuisine?
SM: I have all-American restaurants; I’ve kind of cornered the burger market and pizza market with my brands. And then I have classical French training from France, and I’ve opened up 3-Michelin star restaurants before. So I’m a little bit all over the place. My heritage is Greek, so I eat Greek food and really simple food too. So I think you should see a little bit of everything. I did have two years when I lived in Vietnam and cooked Vietnamese food, so some Asian flair. So we will have some fun, but we just want to keep things basic, and we want to show people how to have fun with food and how to have a grand time, throw a party and have some shock-and-awe moments in regard to food.
Given your classical training, what are a few chef-y tricks that home cooks can do too?
SM: The food world has come such a long way, and I feel like there's a lot of educated people out there, because of these great shows that have been on Food Network and other channels. People know how to cook, and I think it’s time that we take them up a notch a little bit, and we can impose a little bit of special chef techniques when they're appropriate to the recipe. And then they can even impress the crowd of people that are there a little bit at the house or at the party or what have you.
What are you looking forward to in working with an ensemble?
SM: Working with an ensemble is great for viewership because you're going to have a lot of points of views, personalities, opinions, and all that is meant for the greater good — sharing is caring. It’s the food world, so it should always be a party when food's at the table, and I think that’s going to be a fun part of it.
Let's say it’s a regular Tuesday night and you are at home. What are you making for dinner?
SM: Sometimes I like a really crispy seared chicken. Lately I’ve been really into just searing, schmaltzing my skin a little bit, really low and slow, getting it crisp, turning it over, cooking the chicken breast through, serving it with some really delicious vegetables that I got in the house or what have you. We throw some garlic and some thyme and rosemary in the pan when we're cooking the chicken so it gets all those aromatics. Really something simple, and to the nose it's very familiar.
SM: I have so many signature dishes. I can’t say that there's one dish that explains me. I get asked that question a lot, though, so I’m always trying to think of, like, "Man, next time someone asks me this I need to have an answer for the signature dish." The idea is I really don’t have one signature dish. I have all sorts of dishes that I love to do. I love to do burgers. I’m a signature burger guy. I can throw down on a mean burger. We have a pizza restaurant, so let’s get some dough, tomato sauce and pie, throw them in the oven. We’ll have fun with pizza. So I have some really great techniques for both of those. And then along with everything else, I have to say one [thing] also — my Vietnamese talent, like the talent I have with Vietnamese food. So it’s more about cuisines than dishes.
Is there one myth that you are ready to demystify when it comes to cooking?
SM: The measuring out of spices and salts and the peppers and the "one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan or a teaspoon" — that stuff doesn’t work. I’m here to break those myths and break those rules. We're going to throw olive oil in the pan till we feel fit that there's enough olive oil in the pan for the ingredients that we're going to put in there. We're not going to measure out paprika and cayenne pepper. We're just going to season it with our hand and our eyes, and we’re going to look at stuff, and it's going to speak back to us. We’re going to break those myths. We're going to have fun with that.
What one food trend from 2016 are you ready to say goodbye to this year?
SM: I think I’m ready to say goodbye to cupcakes once and for all. Out the window.
What do you think will be the next big trend in the world of food — or what do you hope will be?
SM: The funny thing about out food culture is that it’s a revolving open door of things that used to be trendy that went out of trend [and] now are back in trend. Like TV dinners — let’s get those back on the map. But like really delicious ones. Let's take TV dinners, bring all those old-school recipes back, and let’s have fun with them. A little retro for the new year.
Tune in to Kitchen Sink on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 11a|10c.