No More Takeout!
A Visual Do-it-Youself Guide to Cooking
Chat with Steve Hartigan
Q & A with Chef Steve Hartigan
Q. Coming from such a huge family, what are your childhood memories of food? How did your family manage with weddings?
A. Both of my grandmothers were superb cooks and my mum too. She does this amazing Sunday roast beef - I just never tire of it. As I grew up, though, eating out was rare, just a few times a year, so home cooking was the thing. Braising and slow cooking was a favorite way to cook meat for our family. Cook until seriously dead, no fear of getting food poisoning, if you know what I mean? But for pot roast, this can really work. Joking aside though, the food served was always hearty, filling and delicious. And my grandmothers mainly cooked by feel (and experience) and so I had to watch carefully to pick up their many little tricks.
As for weddings, oh please ... my extended family is 124 people strong, all with a healthy appetite. Thus, no sit-down wedding receptions for our crowd. Rather, everybody showed up to the after party, and what a celebration that was! Usually held at a local hotel, they fit us in the largest room they had, moved all the tables aside, and let everyone loose. Definitely made for some entertaining moments.
Q. What brought you into this career? Why become a chef?
A. Honestly, it kind of happened by accident. I went to work at Euro-Disney for a summer job at a hotel that was the second largest in Europe. Which meant a gigantic kitchen and a huge staff. Within no time, I was made Commis de Cuisine, and oversaw the production of 4,500 breakfasts a day. This wrinkled a few egos around me, particularly from a few of the chefs who had been in the business for over five years. But I thought, "Oh, I guess I'm kind of good at this." And I never looked back.
From there, I went back to Ireland to get qualified at a college, and then went on to cook at a number of top rated restaurants in Ireland and England then finally to America. Thing is, I was persistent, hard working, and willing to do anything. The head chefs ended up taking a liking to me and I moved up quickly along the way.
Q. What do you cook at home for your friends and loved ones? Do you have any favorite recipes?
A. I've cooked everything from high-end French cuisine to extravagant dishes using experimental ingredients, but at home and with friends, I'm mainly known, and love to cook comfort food. Things like grilled steak with bernaise, boneless roasted lamb, broiled striped bass, herbed roast chicken, and such. My appreciation of simple food cooked well is what is inspiring about No More Takeout for me - I want to share my love and experience with this type of food with the whole world.
Q. How much pressure does it put on you constantly cooking for such a high profile clientele? Folks like Bono, Lorraine Bracco, Calvin Klein, Gwen Stefani, Star Jones, Barbara Walters, even Martha Stewart? A bit of heat in the kitchen then?
A. While it's a privilege to be able to provide a fine meal and dining experience for celebrities who enjoy and have come to expect the very best, the truth is, they are just like you and me. They enjoy a decent meal with close friends, and that's what it really comes down to for me. That and Mr. and Mrs. Grubman, who I work for, are the consummate hosts - they truly know how to make people feel wonderful in their home, and I'm just happy to be a part of that. And our guests are always so gracious as well - often making their way into the kitchen to say hi.
As for the pressure, I put that on myself, no matter who I'm cooking for - it's part of my makeup, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But hey, we all make mistakes. But along the way I've gotten pretty good at turning a mistake into a happy accident - something I get into a bit in No More Takeout - that is, finding a quick solution in the heat of the moment.
Q. So you're Irish, and a chef? Irish chef? Isn’t that a contradiction of terms? Or have things changed in the past 15 years?
A. It's incredible how much the culinary landscape in Ireland has changed over the past 15 years or so, right along with the mercurial rise in the nation's GDP. People have had more to spend, and the restaurant industry has been more than happy to comply with opening more diverse and globally competitive restaurants. Plus, as people have traveled, either on business or for holiday, they ultimately bring back ideas to try back home, and this has been going on for years now. Suffice to say, there are some wonderful dining options in Ireland today.