On Friday, CisternYard News headed over to the SieMatic VIP Lounge for a chef demo with Ken Vedrinski, owner and chef at Trattoria Lucca and Coda del Pesce. Here’s what he had to say about some of the current culinary questions in Charleston.
Note: This interview has been edited for length.
CYN: What do you think about the shift to celebrity chefs?
KV: Well I don’t know if it’s a shift, it’s been happening for a long time. Once the Food Channel happened, those guys all started somewhere where they were great chefs. They had to be. Well, that’s not true. If you have an amazing personality, an addictive kind, like Guy Fieri. He won Next Food Network Star but is he a great chef, no. And I don’t think he thinks he is either, I think he feels he’s accomplished, but everyone knows him as a personality. I mentioned Mario [Batali], for years and years he did amazing work and he parlayed that into other restaurants, and he has an amazing personality. So he’s, to me, the consummate celebrity chef. He’s a really great chef, he’s still a great cook. I’m fascinated by how he did it. I follow him pretty closely. I don’t know that the personality ever supercedes being a really good chef.[On winning a James Beard award] You have to do work to do that, you have to do events, you have to go to the SFA in Oxford, because your peers and people who vote for those awards, are there. You have to want to do that.
I’m right in the middle, where I believe, if you’re going to come into my restaurant, you’re going to spend $70, $75 – I have to be involved. That’s the equation. Between the two restaurants I can’t be in both places, but I’m involved. ‘What are we cooking tonight? What are you doing? This person’s coming in,’ that type of thing. So I’m never far away from it and I still cook. My base is probably smaller, but my base is loyal.
CYN: In a place that’s as flush with talent and new restaurants as Charleston, is there anything that you see missing from the food scene here?
KV: A really creative Mexican restaurant. Now Minero is, they’ve done that. Asian? I’m a little surprised, I haven’t seen that. There’s no dim sum, that’s a shame. I’m not a brunch guy at all but if there was a dim sum place on Sundays, I would do that. Most of the other bases have been covered and redone a few times.
[On staying profitable] Places like mine, we have to rely on the local foodies to stay busy, because being busy Friday and Saturday isn’t hard – it’s Monday through Wednesday. You’ve got to get people through your place.