Posted on November 17, 2010 11:50 am

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Chef Brandon Kida
Interview by Linda Sarris

Chef Brandon Kida is the Chef de Cuisine of Asiate Restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. He was raised in Los Angeles and came to New York City after graduating from the CIA. He trained at Lutèce and joined the opening team of Asiate in 2003. During De Gustibus’ Asian Festivities event, Chef Brandon Kida prepared a menu that represented the cuisine of Asiate. He served a tuna tartare amuse-bouche made with spear-caught Bluefin Tuna from Block Island. The first course was a Kabocha Squash Ravioli with Stavecchio broth. Stavecchio is a hard cheese made in Wisconsin that closely resembles Italian Parmesan cheese. He created a Seared Scallop and Coconut Herb Broth dish with a Hearts of Palm and Granny Smith Apple Salad. Chef Kida’s final dish was a Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Smoked Potato Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms, and a Blackberry Port Wine Reduction. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef Paul Nolan demonstrated a rich and creamy Flourless Double Chocolate Mousse Cake with Caramel Passion Fruit Sauce. The Kobrand Corporation paired the wines for the evening.

How would you describe your cuisine at Asiate?Contemporary American cuisine with Japanese inspiration and background, done in a New York fashion. I use American ingredients, and the dishes we draw inspiration from are American, but the actual idea behind everything is Japanese. Japanese cuisine is very simple but yet complex at the same time, so that’s what we try to achieve. My cuisine is a reflection of me – American with an Asian influence. I grew up enjoying different cuisines because of my family and the ethnic diversity of Los Angeles, so my menu mirrors that…Japanese is my comfort-zone cuisine so that will naturally appear in my dishes, but often with just subtle nuances.

How often do you change the menus?The menu is entirely revamped four times per year, seasonally. We also make a few variations every three weeks or so. The Prix Fixe lunch for $24 changes every two weeks.

What’s your favorite dish currently on the menu?The Tuna Dégustation is a tartare, sashimi, tataki soaked in a sake and soy marinade, cucumber salad, and avocado wasabi mousse. It’s basically a tasting of tuna.

How big is your staff in the kitchen?I have 18 for lunch and dinner.

Some of your early training was at Lutèce. What was it like working there?This was my first restaurant in New York. It was extremely stressful. There were only three people on the line as opposed to seven. It was an old-school kitchen but it was good. You have to learn everything.

What current restaurants do you think can give the best training to new cooks in the industry?A lot of my cooks actually came from Aquavit. That was back when Marcus Samuelsson was with the group. They definitely have the approach that teaches a cook how to cook properly.

I know in May, you participated in the LuckyRice Festival. What other organizations do you work with? We do a lot with C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program - which is a great organization. They take underprivileged kids and give them a skill. Then they are given scholarships and placed in restaurants. From that point on, it’s all up to them but it does open up that entire whole world for them. I have three employees from C-CAP, one is with me here tonight and he is by far one of my better cooks and he came from that program.

What other cuisines influence your style of cooking?Really everything, that’s not an exaggeration. The other day I ate Ethiopian food and it opened up so many ideas in my head. Everything I eat gives me new ideas.

Where do you go for Japanese food?If I had a choice to eat, I know I’d always eat my Mother or Father’s food. I don’t really know in New York. In Los Angeles, I’d go to Yu in West LA and there’s also Mori. Those two restaurants really encapsulate what I really think Japanese food should be. It’s straightforward, just good, simple, fresh food.

Where do you get your ingredients?A lot of our raw fish applications we get from Japan but everything else is from Long Island or the North East of the United States. Things that we can’t waver on like Salmon from Alaska has to be flown in, but whatever we can buy here we utilize to the furthest extent. The produce all comes from the North Fork of Long Island, mainly Satur Farms.

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