The HerKentucky Interview with Taste of Derby Chef Stephanie Izard

When Skuna Bay Salmon contacted me about interviewing the chefs that will be representing them at Taste of Derby, I figured it would be a great opportunity to showcase a unique Derby Week event. I didn't realize it would be such a great lesson about realizing your dreams through hard work and dedication. It's been amazing to hear such accomplished chefs share both their passion for cooking and their advice for success. I so adore the message that today's chef has for professional women looking to break the glass ceiling: "It's not about your gender or race or anything like that...it is about your work ethic."

Yesterday, we talked with Denver-based chef Jennifer Jasinski. Today's interview is with Stephanie Izard, Executive Chef and co-owner of Chicago's Girl & The Goat and Little Goat restaurants. Stephanie, a Connecticut native, is a James Beard Award nominee, Food & Wine's "Top New Chef" and the winner of Season Four (and the first female winner!) of Bravo's Top Chef. Stephanie was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

HerKentucky: When did you know you wanted to become a chef? 
Stephanie Izard: I always loved to cook but did not really see being a chef as a career until I was in college at the University of Michigan. I was a sociology major and never really found anything I loved. My dad was the one that recommended I try culinary school. So I migrated south to the Scottsdale Culinary Institute for some warmer weather and to give cooking a shot. I loved everything about kitchens and restaurants. It was when I was working at La Tache for Dale Levitski that I really decided to open my own restaurant. I ran a special that sold out the same night and when another cook told me I should just open my own restaurant, I thought, Why not? So I quit and began the process of opening Scylla

HK: What flavors/ types of cuisine are your main inspiration?
SI: I really love trying different countries cuisine and trying to incorporate global flavors into my dishes. Traveling through Asia really influenced my cooking and some Asian ingredients top my list. Since it is hard to leave the restaurant to go and travel the world, I do a lot of exploration through cookbooks. 

HK: What advice do you have for women who want to become chefs?
SI: I think it is very important to just put your head down and work. A lot of people talk about kitchens being a "boys-club" but there are also a lot of women. It's not about your gender or race or anything like that...it is about your work ethic. 

HK: Tell us a little about what you'll be cooking in Louisville this week.
SI: I know I'm making salmon, but honestly as I am trying to get packed up, my mind keeps racing and now I think goat will be added to the dish!

Stephanie graciously provided us with a recipe as well -- I'm fascinated by the flavor profile in this one!

Salmon Tartare with Piri Piri

Serves 16 as an appetizer

½ cup lime juice
Skuna Bay Salmon
½ fresh Thai chili
½ bunch cilantro, thick bottom stems discarded
2 sprigs mint, picked
¼ cup canola oil
1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut to a ¼in dice
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 spears white asparagus, thinly sliced on a bias
1 cup blueberries
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup micro sorrell

Place 16 miso spoons in the refrigerator.

Place lime juice, Thai chili, cilantro, and mint in a mini food processor. Process on high until the chili and herbs are pureed. With the processer running, add the oil. Season with salt.
In a glass bowl, toss the diced salmon with the hoisin sauce. In another glass bowl, toss the asparagus, blueberries, and almonds with the piri piri dressing. Place 1 oz of diced salmon on each miso spoon. Top with a teaspoon of asparagus salad. Garnish with the micro sorrel, serve immediately.

Thanks so much to Stephanie, Jennifer, and Skuna Bay for taking time to talk to us. Here's hoping Taste of Derby is an amazing event!!

{No member of the HerKentucky writing staff was compensated in any way for this post.}