Blunt Inquiry | Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy
Like The Proust Questionnaire, if Proust was the kind of person who would just house the damn madeleine.
November 10, 2016 ● 2 min read
Blunt Inquiry is an ongoing questionnaire series put forth by the creator of those aprons you covet on a deeply stylish level of your soul (Bluntroll, obviously): the one and only Tanya Kelly. We'll be publishing her choice entries from now until eternity! Today's two-step concerns one Amanda Cohen, vegetable whisperer in chief of New York City's Dirt Candy and owner of a direct, no-bullshit lease on life that gives us great serenity.
What is your idea of a perfect restaurant?
One I don’t own.
What is your greatest fear at work?
A hideous accident involving hot oil.
Which working chef do you most admire?
Any woman who’s running a restaurant has my respect. This is an industry that showers rewards on men, and ignores women who’ve been in the game for twice as long and done twice as much. So if a woman can put up with it for long enough to open her own place, she’s made of steel and deserves my unending admiration.
What would instantly make you fire someone?
Who instantly fires someone? This isn’t The Apprentice, it’s people’s lives.
What was your most extravagant purchase for your restaurant?
What is your favorite food journey?
The one that involves logging into Seamless Web and ordering delivery.
What words or phrases do you most overuse at work?
Shit’s going down and we’re all going down with it.
What do you regret most after all your years in the business?
I look at other chefs and see them going to parties and conferences and getting enough sleep and making it all look so easy and I’m on my line almost every night, I can’t remember the last time I got eight hours of sleep, and every day is a struggle. I wish I could figure out how they did it.
What do you love most about this industry?
The free booze. Seriously, there’s something beautiful about knowing you own a full bar, capable of serving hundreds of people, and it’s all yours.
If you could change anything about the restaurant industry where you are, what would it be?
I’d make it more interesting. NYC is so expensive that chefs have to play it safe to survive here.
What do you consider your most essential ingredient?
The work/life balance struggle is real. How good of a juggler are you? Tips?
The last thing anyone should be doing is taking work/life tips from me.
What is your most treasured kitchen tool?
My knife. I got it free in a gift bag at a conference and I’m going to keep using it until the blade is a tiny, worn nub.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
When the alarm goes off at 4am after I’ve worked dinner, and I have to come down and meet the cops at the restaurant, then go home and get three hours of sleep before coming back and cooking brunch. It happens more often than you’d think.
When you finally retire, were will you live?
I get to retire?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What is the quality you most like in a chef?
The more like me they are, the more I like them.
What is your greatest inspiration/motivation?
The fact that 32 people rely on my business to pay their rents and raise their families. If I break, give up, stop trying, or don’t bring my A game every single night I’m in the restaurant, this place fails and they’re out on the street. That’s what keeps me going.
What is the first thing you remember cooking?
Favourite kitchen word or phrase?