Monthly Industry Insights
Hear from industry leaders their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
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February's Featured Interview: Stephen Yen, Corporate Executive Chef, Paige Hospitality Group
Chef Stephen is the Corporate Executive Chef of Paige Hospitality Group (The Chester, The Ainsworth, The South Hampton Social Club, 121 Fulton) and will be presenting a culinary demonstration at the upcoming International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY.
What made you want to become a chef?
That credit goes to my parents, they were the ones who helped me along the way. They exposed me to various cuisines from a very young age. We would sometimes drive over an hour away on a school night because my they heard of a place that was better than good, this was before yelp, before dial up modems! When word of mouth ruled more than ever. Wanting to learn how to create those dishes ultimately landed me on a tour of the FCI (now ICC) in NYC.
What was your favorite class in culinary school?
When I was a student at the French Culinary Institute part of Level 4 was the Grand Buffet, where you spent a couple weeks preparing for one night. My team did a “Chino-Latino” theme, and at the time I was working at Fatty ‘Cue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I brined a suckling pig in Indonesian bay leafs, fish sauce, galangal, garlic, and peppercorns. It was the first whole pig I was in charge of from start to finish. It was delicious ;-)
What is the newest trend you see emerging?
Full transparency of kitchen preparation, the farm stories of where your produce came from is old news. Most guest now want step by step directions how you prepared everything, which is awesome. The more knowledge we have as a society, the further downrange we can go.
What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator? (and would you send us a photo?)
Veganaise- It’s everywhere now, if you can’t beat them…. Plus when you are a chef you ingest a lot of unnecessary calories and cholesterol. It’s now a matter of life and death to pick and choose when and how you do so.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Japan, everywhere in Japan. Their food culture has influenced every single chef and cuisine around the world. You can not argue against that statement. The depth of culture in Japan is strangely attractive to me.
Is there one comfort food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
Rice, you can take the Asian out of Asia but…
Which talent would you most like to have that you don't possess?
Music, I’m seriously jealous of people that can play an instrument (well).
What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?
BBQ, or large primal cuts. A lot of people don’t have the repetitions that we get in professional kitchens. Most of my chef friends can also quickly analyze a large roast by looking at it, but the civilians would either be gun shy or trigger happy.
Who was your mentor as you were becoming a chef?
I never had one true mentor, I had many mini-mentors. I have notes from every single person I have ever worked with or for. I write everything down, everything. That was the first thing I learned by Chef Xavier Mayonove aka Chef X.
If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
Jose Andres, the guy makes even a box of peaches sound incredible. His love of life and food is contagious.
More about Chef Stephen Yen:
Stephen Yen was born in Flushing Meadows, Queens, and raised on Long Island, in a small town called Cold Spring Harbor. He is the first of his immediate family to be born in the United States of America. When Communism took over control of China, Stephen’s grand parents left the country. Stephen’s Mothers side of the family first went to Indonesia, then Calcutta, India. His Fathers family actually walked from China to India, his eldest uncle was actually born in Myanmar on the way south. Both of Stephen Yen's Parents were born and raised in India. This has had a major impact on the style of cuisines he has been exposed to. Having the opportunity to travel to influential places such as India, China, Dubai, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Italy, Greece, Tahiti, Mexico has been a great asset in his culinary arsenal. He is an alumnus of the French Culinary Institute (International Culinary Center) here in New York City. After graduating he had the pleasure of opening Fatty 'Cue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He then moved on to work along side Eddie Huang, popular for his food driven political antics. Stephen then spent some time training at Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in the meatpacking district. He was chosen to be part of the Omakase team for the final months of his time at Morimoto before moving on to take a sous position at Catch. Catch is a monster of a restaurant in the heart of the meatpacking district. At the helm of the ship was the Executive chef Hung Huynh, Top Chef season three winner. Chef Hung's style of global seafood was not only a building block for Stephen but also a stepping-stone. Leaving Catch as an Executive Sous Chef helped propel his career after only 3 years of professional cooking. He has consulted on multiple projects and designed menus for many NYC kitchens. Stephen has been the Corporate Executive Chef for Paige Hospitality Group (The Chester, The Ainsworth, Ainsworth Park, Ainsworth Midtown, Ainsworth Hoboken, Ainsworth Las Vegas, South Hampton Social Club, 121 Fulton) for the past three years. He is the creative force as well as the Kitchen manager for all the properties. His style of cuisine is global, everything from traditional French to modern American. Of course Asian cuisine comes naturally with his background.
January Insights - Chef Amanda Martin, Leoness Cellars
November Insights - Michelle Noble, Le Cordon Bleu
October Insights - James McGuinness, Keiser University
September Insights - Norman Van Aken, NORMAN'S
August Insights - Richard Pink, Pink's Hot Dogs
July Insights - Keith Breedlove, Culinerdy Cruzer
June Chef Insights - Rob Valencia, Great Performances
May Chef Insights - Marc Murphy, Benchmarc Restaurants
April Chef Insights - Megan Johnson, Casellula
March Chef Insights - Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, TV Personality
February Chef Insights - Barret Beyer, Hell's Kitchen
January Chef Insights - Anton Testino, Mulberry Street Cafe
November Chef Insights - David Binkle, Los Angeles Unified School District
October Chef Insights - Alan Ogard, Lexington Hotel
September Chef Insights - Barbie Marshall, The Farming Chef
August Chef Insights - Cal DeMercurio, Corporate Executive Chef, Black Bear Diner
July Chef Insights - Johannes Bernau, Executive Chef, Who Song & Larry's
June Chef Insights - Ryan Vargas, Chef de Cuisine at Emeril's Tchoup Chop