Construction noises are the ambient sound as Chris Nirschel surveys the new restaurant at the gateway to Greenwich Village, where he serves as executive chef.
By Manhattan standards, the restaurant is huge — 8,000 square feet upstairs, 5,000 down. He set the menu, which includes 20 New York beers on tap. Nirschel had already wrapped MTV’s “House of Food,” premiering Monday, March 31.
In it, aspiring chefs can learn from the best – provided they have what it takes to learn. Three accomplished chefs, rarely known for their retiring ways, are there to teach, and when one contestant admits she is there more as a hobbyist, they have no patience for her.
The aspiring chefs gather in an exquisite California house, and over the course of the show, they learn tricks of the trade. Living together, there is the usual drama of a group of 20-somethings living together and competing.
Nirschel says what surprised him most was the growth of the participants and how he enjoyed seeing them come into their own in the kitchen.
“Personality in a plate,” he calls it. “I didn’t really know what to expect. These are aspiring chefs, with no culinary education. They are also at the age where there will be drama and chaos in the kitchen and I work with them through that process.”
Nirschel is no stranger to reality TV. He had been on “Food Network Star,” “Chopped” and “Couples Therapy” and likes being a TV presence.
Being on this show, Nirschel says, reinforced that he loves to mentor and teach. He also instructs kids about cooking and is on a mission to improve lunches in New York schools.
“I enjoy coaching and teaching people who want to be taught,” he tells Zap2it.
Classically trained at the French Culinary Institute, Nirschel has worked at a few New York restaurants and formed Culinary Bad Boy Productions, a New York catering company. Cooking comes naturally to Nirschel, whose first dish was pizza made with his dad.
“I would be kneading the dough with my dad to make calzones and make pizza,” he says. “When I was really young and trying to make omelets, I was so terrible. My uncle from Argentina used to take me fishing, and he taught me his grandmas’ recipes. I am very lucky to have a culinary heritage.”
What is always in your refrigerator?
“Butter, garlic, onion, chicken stock and cucumbers,”
What did you have for dinner last night?
“I actually did a spicy sausage and broccoli rabe with rigatoni and arugula, basil, pistachio pesto finished with shaved Asiago.”
What is your next project?
“The new restaurant; I am its executive chef.”
What do you dislike cooking?
“I do not like cooking offals — kidney, tongue, brain. That is my least favorite, maybe because I do not do it enough.”