Chef 101: Spike Mendelsohn

Spike Mendelsohn, who appeared as a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” is set to open Good Stuff Eatery, an upscale hamburger joint, on Capitol Hill at 303 Pennsylvania Ave. Anticipated opening: end of spring.

Previous cooking experiences — I started in St. Petersburg, Fla., at Pepin Restaurant, and went to the Culinary Institute of America. Then I traveled to France and cooked in a chateau in the north of France. Then it was on to Luxemburg to work in a Thai restaurant. I also traveled to Vietnam to learn Vietnamese food, and to Greece, where my family has a villa.

When I’m not eating my own food — I love simple food. I love Greek food. I love lamb on the spit and all the dipping sauces. I love good food. I don’t go out to eat. More often I’ll bow down to the classic simple food. I love tapas. I love small plates. I don’t like one meal. I love salad at the end of the meal. It helps you digest what you eat. It’s a nice way to end the meal. Favorites: In Manhattan, Kefi (Greek) and Centrico (Mexican) for late-night tacos.

Born and raised — Born and raised in Montreal, Canada. At 13 we moved to Spain. My parents did expositions at the World Fair. I lived for three and a half years in Sevilla and went to school in Marbella.
Food I cannot stand — I don’t really like liver.

Greatest cooking influences — I’d have to say my family, growing up in the restaurant. Gerard Boyer at the chateau where I trained in France, he set the standard for the rest of my life. Everything was done perfectly. The restaurant was called Les Crayeres (translation: the chalk caves).

Views on cooking TV shows — I love them, actually. I think they are a great way to let the public know what good food is. I would love to have my own cooking show if I could incorporate cooking and travel.

Strange cuisine — I ate dog in Vietnam. I drank pigeon whiskey in Vietnam, but it’s not something I’d want to do all the time.
Must-have cooking utensil — I like my spoon. It’s got a little bend it in. When I sauce a plate it helps me out. It’s pretty much always on me.

Thoughts on Washington, D.C.’s food scene — I am opening up a new restaurant on Capitol Hill. My family has been in the business for centuries — my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. I had a vision, something really simple and fun that I’m calling Good Stuff Eatery. “Good stuff” is a saying my grandfather used to say. It’s all about goodness, graciousness, about good people. It’s going to be classic burgers. Melts. Barbecue burger. A real spicy burger. It’s going to be really simple food but done perfectly with fresh organic ingredients. We’re going to have the best french fries in the country — country fries chopped up with rosemary, thyme and pepper. There will be shakes and we will make our own ice cream on the premises. It’s going to be so fresh I think I’m going to be milking the cow every day.

Worst kitchen disaster — I was working at Le Circe at 59th and Lexington. I was pretty much just a fish cook at that point. I had clarified butter on the stove. I’m in the weeds. I’m looking at 250 people. There’s a chef, 14 to 15 people, I’m going crazy. The ladle caught on my sleeve, butter fell out on the stove and the whole thing created 15-foot flames. Honestly, I kept my composure. I just kept on cooking. A bunch of people ran [over] with towels.

Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — My biggest pet peeve would have to be sloppiness. I like chefs to have their heads straight in the game.

Three people I’d always want to see in the kitchen — Michael Colletti. We worked at Le Circe together. My mother. She’s fun. She’s so kind, so innocent, but she’d get down like anyone in the kitchen. She’d be yelling with the chefs, swearing. Later on, she’d put up her dress, put up her hair and she was like this sweet lady. My grandfather.

Three people I’d never want to see in the kitchen — Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Kat Kora (one of the Iron Chefs). Kora annoys me. She tries to play up this whole Greek background. The others I wouldn’t want for ego reasons. I’d also have a hard time with my father in the kitchen. He would just burn himself. He just doesn’t know what he’s doing in the kitchen, but I’d definitely have him out in the dining room tasting.

Strangest things cooked — I cooked a live turtle in Vietnam. It’s a sacred thing. They cut him at the throat. They bleed him into vodka. It’s delicacy; they use the shell to make soup. They bleed the vodka into [the] bowel and it’s also a delicacy. It was delicious.

Age — 27

Marital status — single