As part of our coverage of Blue August, Planet Green is interviewing chefs around the country to get their takes on the Gulf Oil Spill and how it might affect the future of the region's vibrant food culture. This is the ninth interview in the series; read the whole series for more from chefs like Mario Batali and food thinkers like Ruth Reichl.
Sam Talbot is Executive Chef of the soon-to-open Mondrian SoHo in New York City.
At the forefront of the 'integrative kitchen' movement, which breaks down the walls between the way we eat and the way we live, Sam is today one of America's most original chefs. What is the food? Who's eating it? Where? When? In what circumstances? Sam's approach to cooking is to understand how all these questions -- and their answers -- interconnect. His approach to life is the same: Sam surfs, snowboards, practices yoga, travels widely, moves easily among the worlds of fashion, entertainment, sports, and celebrity. Diagnosed at a young age with juvenile diabetes, Sam lives every hour with a profound understanding of the impact of food on life and life on food. That understanding has become a uniquely creative driving force for his cooking style and recipes.
A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Sam began his culinary training at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston. During his schooling, Sam worked at the acclaimed J. Bistro in Charleston where he worked under chef /owner James Burns. Sam still considers Burns his mentor and returns frequently to Charleston to cook, fish, and refresh his culinary "juices."
At 24, Sam moved to New York City as Executive Chef of the Black Duck Restaurant in the City's legendary Gramercy Park neighborhood. Two years later, he opened his own restaurant, the Williamsburgh Cafe in Brooklyn's trendiest locale; he was nominated for Best New Chef in Brooklyn by CitySearch and Best Restaurant in Brooklyn by the New York Post.
Wherever he goes, Sam's cooking is always a reflection of his insistence on fresh, healthy ingredients. That is part and parcel of who he is as a diabetic -- one who also volunteers extensively with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and who uses his newfound celebrity to increase awareness of the disease and to raise money to fight it.
Unique even among celebrity chefs, Sam brings to his kitchen his deep love of nature, keen sense of taste, creative mind, and intrinsic understanding of the relationship between food and health. His is the quintessential 'integrative kitchen.' He chatted with Planet Green about how his point of view and approach has been affected by the oil spill.