Interview with Seasonal Chef Andrew Kirschner

The Next Iron Chef competitor opened Tar & Roses in his hometown of Santa Monica

Share
Interview with Chef Andrew Kirschner about sustainability.
Clean Plates sits down and talks about sustainability and local food with Next Iron Chef, Andrew Kirschner in LA. (Photo by: Tar & Roses)

Updated Jul 31, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

After cooking at Clean Plates-approved Wilshire for the better part of 4 years, Andrew Kirschner of Next Iron Chef fame built his dream restaurant, Tar & Roses. The new space in his Santa Monica hometown serves local, mainly organic food, has a cozy neighborhood vibe and a newly opened, sunny patio. We chatted with Kirschner about sustainable sourcing, his L.A. roots and recent obsession with wood-fired ovens.

Q: Why has sourcing local ingredients been important to you over the years
A: Everybody wins: the environment, the local economy, and the customer. It comes down to a moral question that chefs and restaurateurs need to ask themselves. You really notice the quality, the flavor and the freshness of unadulterated produce, it tastes a hundred times better. For me it’s all about cooking great food, but if you’re smart about your business there are still plenty of ways to turn a profit — even if the produce costs slightly more.

Q: You’ve shopped at the Santa Monica Farmers Market for years. Do you have any tips the home cook could use to make the most of the experience?
A: Be present at the market and introduce yourself to the farmers. They all love to talk about their product. The more excited the consumer is, the more excited the farmers get.

Q: You’re a native Angeleno. How has that helped shape your culinary perspective?
A: I was raised a Californian so I was exposed to all the agriculture the state has to offer. Growing up close to the market, I always had my eye on the produce. California is a great melting pot of all kinds of different cultures and flavors.

Q: How did the experience on Next Iron Chef help you evolve in the kitchen?
A: I don’t think it brought anything out in terms of untapped cooking skills. It was TV, it was a lot of fun, but I don’t think that it did anything for me culinarily. You become close with everyone that’s there, so the great takeaway for me was forging those relationships. It was a really fun opportunity to work with other great chefs from around the country.

Q: You use the natural flavors of wood and char in your dishes. Are Italian pizza ovens near and dear to your heart?
A: It’s as primal of a cooking technique as there is. I love cooking over raw heat and wood while camping, so it was a mission to use that. The wood varies, but it’s primarily almond and walnut and white oak. I think the smell and the feeling of a fire really warms up the restaurant.

Photos courtesy of Tar & Roses.