Okay, I have a confession to make: I am a diehard Top Chef fan. During the first few seasons of the show I found myself in absolute awe of the chefs – watching them create and master dishes under insane pressure and crazy circumstances was thrilling. EyeSwoon didn’t exist at that time and never in a million years would I have imagined that I would step into the kitchen of 3rd season Top Chef winner Hung Huynh. I found myself closely following Huynh’s career: after winning Top Chef, he went on to serve as Executive Chef at The General in New York and at Catch, a restaurant with locations in both New York and Miami that serves sharable small plates of globally inspired seafood. It is hands down one of my favorite New York spots.
I recently visited with Chef Hung for a private sushi tutorial. Making sushi was a first for me and I quickly leaned that a whole new set of rules applied. We made “The Catch” roll with crab, salmon, and miso-honey and a smoked salmon roll with smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. The ingredients and sauces laid out before me were all familiar (and, in a sartorial stroke of luck, matched my Thakoon dress) yet the approach and technique were totally foreign. I felt a bit like a baby deer taking its first shaky steps but Hung was patient and playful as I learned how to walk…or, perhaps more accurately, roll.
As I settled into Chef Hung’s kitchen and we started chatting I found him to be warm, honest, and silly. He told me that he never cooks at home. EVER. That the contents of his fridge are exclusively water and coconut water, that mishaps in the kitchen are par for the course and that when he goes to diners he can’t resist knocking back a couple of the little coffee creamers he finds at the table.
I nibbled, dipped, and torched my way through the prep and by the end of the day I can safely say that I mastered the roll in my own amateur way. After an afternoon filled with laughter and learning we sat down to enjoy our culinary creations and they were even more delicious than I imagined. Just as I was leaving Hung revealed that he was a fan of my husband’s music, which could very well mean that on top of sharing a meal together, there’s also a good chance that we shared a dance floor many moons ago! Love it!