chef: kelly thos shay
location: mccarthy's tea room, bethlehem, pa
recipe: irish soda bread
My parents first and foremost —My father was a meat cutter for over 30 years and my mother was an amazing baker. My culinary mentors Scott and Mike —who I still bounce ideas off of, to this day. Culinary school would never have been the same if I hadn't started off with Chef Bruno Ellmer.
Where did you learn to cook?
I am a CIA grad. School taught me the basics. Experience taught me that I needed to get my arse kicked a few times to realize that that was all I knew. The majority of my experience was in fine dining and country inns. Little did I know that that wasn't what I was really meant to do.
After collecting over 700 of them —I'm not sure if I can narrow it down to one. Any tome that deals with British cooking at its finest —such as Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
Beer. It's a multitasker. You can make soup, marinades, stews, bread, desserts, damn near anything.
Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
I've managed to maintain a diet on Bethlehem Brewworks Oatmeal Stout since coming back to town. I'm a big fan of Magic Hat #9, Woodchuck Cider, and Stoudt's Scarlet Lady.
Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
It depends on what I am cooking. It can range from Handel to Nina Simone.
What is your favorite type of food?
Simple. After spending many years doing fine dining and four star food, I have realized that the more stripped down and simple the dish the better. My classmate Andrew Carmellini is amazing at this. The food at his restaurant A Voce in NYC is pure simple Italian food at its best. All it takes is good ingredients and a passion for doing what you love to do.
Most memorable meal?
Two words...Purple Chicken. That's all I'll say
Most memorable dinner guest?
There have been many celebrities, chefs and VIP's. However I would have to say that the many nights I spent cooking for the four toughest critics and my biggest fans —Killian, Aine, Padraig, and Brogan.
Most irritating celebrity chef?
There isn't one in particular. The most irritating chefs would have to be the one's who create themselves to be self important. The chefs that piss on everyone underneath them. Those that feel you need to be educated to even wear a chef jacket. We are all chefs in our own right —everytime we pick up a pot or a pan, feed those we love, and manage to satisfy their physical and emotional hunger. Those types of chefs know who they are too.
What makes indie food better?
Indie food is about quality. Its not about some mass produced, cardboard tasting piece of crap that has been genetically modified into something that isn't even food anymore. Indie food is about not selling out to corporate America. Indie food is about doing what you do well —not just buying some pre produced garbage from a large conglomerate and passing it off as your own. Its about respect for the ingredients, and the traditions that each dish is steeped in.