….continuing Real Talk – The Chef Series with part 6.
THD: There is a question I wanted to ask. Vegan/vegetarian, how much restaurant or back of the house cater to?
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: I love vegans. It is such a challenge, like James and I were talking about being complacent earlier and how that’s just not for us. Having a vegan come in and being like, “I want an eight course dinner,” like, “you cook it for me because there’s only a few items on your menu that I can have.” Dude, I love them, man.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Yeah. I agree. I have–every section on the menu has vegan offerings, we have a vegan wine dinner where I’ll do six courses with all, you know, vegan wines. I fucking love vegan food. My favorite foods in life are vegetables, olive oils, vinegars, herbs. I mean, I love pork. I love animals. But, dude, like Spanish olive oil and, like, a fresh tomato, that like–dude, that gets my rocks off more than, like, a whole pig does. I love vegan food.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: Really?
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Yeah, I swear to god.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: A whole pig?
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Yeah.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: I’m just checking to make sure that you’re–
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I’ll be honest, I get whole animals a lot, so I’m like, I’m used to it.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: There’s got to be a vegan or a vegetarian over there that you’re really hot for her right now and you’re just saying–
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: No. I swear to god, though, when I get like a–dude, when I get a crate of like heirloom tomatoes in the dead of summer like, dude, that–I’m sorry, that fucks me up.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: It’s awesome. Yeah.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I mean, I’m a goomba, I’m grew up in an Italian family. When I see a crate of heirloom tomatoes, that’s more exciting than a whole pig, and I fucking love pig.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: Little shaped brows.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Oh, my god, like dude, when you see the first ramps all covered in dirt.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: Who doesn’t like–yeah, but think then if you put those ramps on top of a steak, how awesome that would be.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I agree with you. Everyone’s excited, the cost just went up.
CHEF DOUGLAS HEWITT: Yeah, right, exactly. Big time
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: –I love meat, I really do, but like vegan is like–I love it. How many animals do you eat? Like 20, 30, 40, 50? How many vegetables do you eat?
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: Yeah.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Thousands.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: Well, I like the thing about that, vegetarians and vegans are–they challenge you, which I think is great. I haven’t always served tacos. I’ve done other things so it’s–
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Of course.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: I had to–I was a personal chef for a while, and I had a daughter who was on a probiotic diet, and that was really difficult, but it was challenging and it made me really think outside the box on how can I make something delicious without cooking it, it was really a strict diet. But, I mean, it’s–I think it’s good. I run a vegetarian taco special every other week. We go meat and vegetarian. And obviously, I’m in Ferndale so there’s a lot of vegetarians, there’s a lot of vegans, and so when I do a vegetarian special I try as hard as I can to make it vegan to begin with, you know, or the only thing I put on it is cheese maybe and they can take the cheese off. I mean, I love vegetables as much as this guy, not as much as a whole pig, I’m not going to say that. That’s–but–
CHEF DOUGLAS HEWITT: I don’t know. Vegetarian doesn’t bother me, vegan is like–You’re nuts. I’ve done a couple, like, raw dinners–
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I love vegans, man, I fucking, like, I go out and give them a hug, I’m like, “Yeah, thanks for coming.” They’re purists.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: I don’t mind.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I love them.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: But if you can blow them away with a meal.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Right.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: I mean, come on. You’ve got some skills.
CHEF DOUGLAS HEWITT: It’s true, like I said, I’ve done a couple raw things I love it even more because if you ever get into your raw food, it’s like, “What the fuck are they doing?”
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: I can’t. I can’t.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: No, they’re nice. We’re talking vegan, we’re not talking raw.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Raw food diet, you know, I’m like, “I’m sorry, sir, you’re in the wrong restaurant.”
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: That was the probiotic period.
CHEF JEREMY KALMUS: Those people are crazy.
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: If the only thing–the only heat conduction that I could use was steam, so I had to steam carrots. I had–I think I cheated and I think did the beans not steamed.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Of course you did. Who wouldn’t?
CHEF BRENNAN CALNIN: The options were so limited. Well, she loved it. But, of course, she was going to love it because she couldn’t–the diet was so limited, “Oh, yeah, I love vegan, these are raw carrots.” I was like, “Good.” I mean, there was nothing else I can do at this point.
CHEF JAMES RIGATO: Right.
Chef James Rigato is Executive Chef at The Root Restaurant & Bar in White Lake, MI, and a contestant on Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Season 12 in Boston, MA. In 2012, Chef Rigato was nominated for the Food & Wine “The People’s Best New Chef: Great Lakes” and took home the Restaurant of the Year Award, for the Root, by The Detroit Free Press. He was voted as Best Chef by Hour Detroit in 2013 and again in 2014. Chef Rigato is also known for his “Young Guns” collaborative dinner series, which has been brought together six times.
Chef Jeremy Kalmus is the owner/chef of the new event and catering company Rock ‘N Roll + Caviar, formerly Executive Chef at Local Kitchen and Bar in Ferndale, MI, and NOVI Chop House in NOVI, MI.
Chef Douglas Hewitt, formerly Executive Chef at Terry B’s Restaurant and Bar in Dexter, MI is now taking over the kitchen at the upcoming Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails in Detroit, MI.
Chef Brennan Calnin is the Executive Chef at Imperial Mexican Restaurant & Bar and at the Public House, both in Ferndale, MI.
The interviews in this series were conducted by VATO.
Keep up with The Hungry Dudes for Real Talk – The Chef Series on the coming Monday and Thursday for parts 7 through 8. Also, keep up with Real Talk – The Bartender Series, on the coming Tuesday and Friday for parts 6 through 7. We hope you enjoy these Series, and appreciate your feedback. As always, please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.