Tips & Tricks

Keeping it Simple with Gabe Thompson

Are you cooking the Grilled Flank Steak with Horseradish Crema and Mint Pesto Potatoes this week? That recipe is from Chef Gabe Thompson, Texas-native and chef behind 4 New York City restaurants.

Gabe Thompson humbly admits that he sort of fell into the culinary arts.  He felt that he took to it pretty well, appreciating the camaraderie in the kitchen, and that cooking came naturally to him. He worked in a number of restaurants around the country until finally settling in New York City.

If you’ve been to any of his four restaurants (dell’anima, L’Artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio), you’re familiar with his delicious work. His dishes tend to be accessible, or what he calls “pedestrian” – as he strives to make the meals relatable and comforting.

We got a chance to sit in on a cooking class he was teaching at the De Gustibus cooking school in New York City recently. We asked him a few questions as he prepped for class:

Q: What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever gotten?

A: Katherine, my wife, gives me the best advice all the time, and it’s: Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). That’s what she always says to me, because I always try to overcomplicate stuff.

Q: What’s the first meal you ever learned to cook on your own?

A: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But I did something special – I would break into a second box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and steal the cheese packet and add more cheese. That was the first chef-y thing I did. The second chef-y thing I ever did was make Top Ramen and use less water so it was saltier tasting.

Q: What’s one budget item that should be on every home gourmet’s grocery list?

A: I would say peppercorns. A peppermill and peppercorns. Even if people think that they’re awesome, they always have [pre-ground] pepper shaky stuff – sometimes it’s hard to even find peppercorns in the grocery store, especially like in Austin, Texas, unless you go to a fancy grocery store. Peppercorns, for sure. I can’t use ground pepper – it drives me crazy.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring chef?

A: Be organized. Plan your meals. If there are things you can do (especially if it’s a big special dinner) a day before that won’t compromise the integrity of your meal, definitely do that. Don’t get too ambitious about stuff. You want to build up on your skill level as opposed to thinking you can do it all.

Also – don’t try to do something you’ve never done before for a special occasion. I would have an experiment night. If you’re having someone over you’re trying to impress, and you’ve never cooked duck before, don’t try to cook duck. Cook duck for like your best friend who trusts you first.  You definitely want to make sure that you’ve tried it before.

– Pareesha Narang



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