An Interview with Chef Shaun Hergatt

An Interview with Chef Shaun Hergatt

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Hergatt at his restaurant, Juni, in New York City's Midtown East.

May 6, 2014
CF: I'm best known for my _______ style of cooking but I can make one hell of a _______.
SH: 
Precise; Latkes (my wife is Jewish so she taught me).

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you.
SH: 
Bleep, bleep, bleep.

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant?
SH: W
e've just changed our menu to spring–the theme is green! It starts out fresh with crisp flavors and the natural beauty of the products shining as the star on the plate. I have introduced complimentary canapés to the tasting menus with petit fours, and I have also added some interpretations of childhood memories on the plate as a small experiment.

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with?
SH: 
Joachim Wissler, the German chef of Vendôme. I find his cooking style very interesting, and this is a guy who has had three stars for a very long time. You can see the classic roots, you can see the nuovo thinking, you can see the precision. It's not one of those experiences where it looks amazing but doesn't taste great. It looked amazing and it tasted fantastic and that for me is very impressive.

CF: Message to professional food critics.
SH:
I think that they have to understand they are playing with other people's lives. Their word carries a lot of power, so I'd like it to be more positive, rather than detrimental to businesses. It's important that food writers are aware of their power and how they can affect somebody so dramatically.

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs.
SH: 
Stay focused and understand that this is a life long journey. It's not about instant rewards or success, it's about longevity and understanding how to build a career. I've had more failures in my life than you can imagine, trust me. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like?
SH: 
Caraway seeds. One day my mom made a cake with caraway seeds, and for some reason I just hated it. I also dislike salmon roe from this country. The salmon roe in Australia is not pasteurized, it's fresh. So when you've had that quality, then you eat the stuff that's been sitting in the refrigerator, it's a totally different story. I also have to say mackerel. My father used to make me eat tons of it when he would go fishing, so I just don't like it much anymore.

CF: Thick or thin patty?
SH: 
Thin, but to me it's really about the ratio of all the parts: bun, lettuce, tomato, sauce, and cheese with the burger.

CF: What's for family meal tonight?
SH: 
Family meal is very important to me because it's what fuels your people. We are all working hard, and if you don't eat well, it will reflect in your attitude and in your work. We always have salad, a starch, a good protein, and usually even a dessert.