Budding Restaurateur Celebrates His Roots
Harold Dieterle, executive chef/co-owner of three outstanding New York City restaurants, Kin Shop, Perilla and The Marrow and champion of Top Chef season one, talks about his love of Thai food, how his heritage inspired the menu at his new restaurant and his favorite NYC eats.
AndrewZimmern.com: You studied Thai cuisine and culture while on a sabbatical in Thailand. What were the most important lessons from that trip?
Harold Dieterle: Just being there and learning from the locals, cooking with local ingredients, and experiencing the cuisine firsthand was all really eye-opening. I learned about ingredients and flavors that I never knew existed, and it was incredible to meet and cook with people who have cooked with these things for their whole lives.
AZ.com: With a Sicilian-American background, how did you land on Thai food?
HD: I wasn’t exposed to Thai flavors until I was out of culinary school, but I loved them immediately despite a lot of my first experiences being quite inauthentic. Once I traveled to Thailand that solidified my love for the cuisine.
AZ.com: What made you decide to try out for Top Chef? Ever want to do food TV again?
HD: At the time, I loved competition, and I obviously love to cook, so it was the right move for me. While it was definitely a great experience, I feel much more comfortable inside a kitchen. I never say never, and something could always develop sort of organically, but I’m much more interested in spending my time in a kitchen than in front of a camera.
AZ.com: How did winning Top Chef Season 1 change your career?
HD: It got me amazing exposure, and that exposure helped a lot when my business partner Alicia Nosenzo and I opened Perilla in 2007. It continues to get me exposure today, but I like to think that the exposure isn’t as instrumental to the success of my restaurants as it maybe once was.
AZ.com: What inspired the concept of your new Italian/German restaurant, The Marrow? Favorite things on the menu?
HD: The Marrow was inspired by my heritage, and divided into two sides: one for my mother’s Italian heritage, and one for my father’s German heritage. Some of these dishes are updated takes on the traditional dishes that my grandmothers would cook, but a lot of them just grew from the perks I remember from my childhood kitchen. From the Familia Chiarelli side, for instance, one of my favorites is the Skillet-Braised Cuttlefish, which my grandmother would make with calamari. The schnitzel dish on the Dieterle side of the menu comes with spaetzle that is my grandma’s exact recipe—she never used duck for the schnitzel, though.
AZ.com: How do you split your time between three restaurants?
HD: I try to spend time at all three, but I’ve been spending more time at The Marrow since we just launched brunch and lunch there, and because it’s the newest of the three—we only opened about six months ago. Alicia and I are really fortunate to have amazing teams, both back and front of house, at all three restaurants, and I’m comfortable leaving things in their hands.
AZ.com: Favorite NYC restaurants?
AZ.com :What’s in your fridge?
HD: Blueberries. Always. I also always like to have plenty of meats and cheeses lying around. I swear by mozzarella cheese, and always have at least two kinds of it in my fridge. If I have a good cut of rib eye in my fridge, I’m happy. Finally, you’ll always find sawtooth, an herb, in there. I use it as much as I can—it’s like cilantro, but way better.
Check out Harold’s recipe for Miang of Fluke with pomelo, fried garlic, betel leaf, ginger vinaigrette & chili jam.
Harold Dieterle’s Italian-American upbringing is what first inspired him to be a chef; specifically, watching and assisting his mother prepare traditional Sicilian Sunday suppers in their Long Island home. His interest in cooking continued during middle school, when he enrolled in home economics class and first learned basic recipes for dishes such as fried chicken.
After graduating from high school in 1995, he went to Spain to work in some of the country’s top kitchens. Upon his return, he attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. After graduating, he worked at a series of high-quality establishments on Long Island (e.g. Della Femina) and in Manhattan, most notably the 1770 House in 2002, which garnered a two-star review from The New York Times during his time there.
In 2002, Harold landed a job at restaurateur Jimmy Bradley’s Tribeca restaurant, The Harrison, where he worked under future standout chefs Joey Campanaro and Brian Bistrong. In 2006, Harold competed in and won the first season of Bravo’s Top Chef. The following year he and business partner Alicia Nosenzo opened Perilla in the West Village, a critically acclaimed New American restaurant with Asian influences. In October 2010, Harold and Alicia opened their second West Village restaurant, Kin Shop, devoted to contemporary Thai cuisine and inspired by his many trips to Thailand. Kin Shop was awarded two-stars by the New York Times in 2010. In late 2012, Harold and Alicia opened their third restaurant, The Marrow, at 99 Bank Street in the West Village, focusing on contemporary German and Italian fare – the inspiration coming from Harold’s family heritage.