Between Courses With Chef Cedric Tovar

Chef Cedric, when did you decide you would work in a kitchen?
When I was at school my mother sat down to decide what I wanted to do to make a living. I’ve always enjoyed cooking so my mother sent me to cooking school! I was 16 years old. Since then I stepped in and never left.

Is there a big difference between working for an independent restaurant versus a legendary place like the Waldorf Astoria?
I worked at the Plaza Athenee, Paris so it is not the first time I worked for a palace hotel. It is however very different from working for a free standing restaurant. The clientele is much more demanding. You need to please everybody as people come not only from all around the country but also from all around the world!

Could you tell our readers a little bit about your cheeses at Peacock Alley restaurant?
My cheese plate is very simple but I really want to serve high quality cheeses. One of the keys to success is to manage a small inventory and then you need to work with what is best, what is in season.

You also have to trust your provider and Artisanal Premium Cheese gives me peace of mind. I don’t pick the cheeses per se but I give Toni instructions of what I am looking for: 2 cow, 1 goat, 1 sheep. I then pair them with house made jellies and chutneys and serve the plate with toasted cranberry bread.

If you had to make a cheese, what type of milk would it be made of, what would it taste like?
It would be a cow’s milk cheese. I would aged it and flavor it with spices or herbs.

What amazes you about cheese in general?
What amazes me the most is cheese and wine pairing. It’s unbelievable how much the flavor of the cheese can be enhanced when the pairing is perfect.

Do you consider that your cheese plate is competing with your dessert menu?
My customers usually have dessert or cheese so yes I can say there is a bit of competition but a sane one! I however think that when they ask what cheeses we carry they basically choose the cheeses! (laugh)

Do you think customers are daring enough?
Yes they are. It always surprises me to see people how picky they are. They know what they are looking for. New Yorkers are very daring. 10 years ago you could not put pig’s feet on the menu.

Since you’ve been living in the US what can you say about the quality, diversity of cheeses?
I’ve seen a huge increase in quality from American cheeses. Few of them compete well with European cheeses.

What do you have to say to our readers?
Eat cheese, Artisanal cheese. Don’t be afraid of asking your cheese monger, what is the best available, the best in season. Try new things and not only what you are used to having.

Spread the curd!
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Posted by Nicholas Scipione

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