Chicago-based celebrity chef Stephanie Izard has a full plate; between three successful restaurants, a catering company, her family, and a secret new venture on the horizon there’s no telling what’s next for this culinary genius.
Stephanie Izard is one of America’s most celebrated chefs and was the first female chef to win Bravo’s Top Chef. She also won the first season of Food Network’s Iron Chef Gauntlet. We recently caught up with Izard in Phoenix, co-hosting a special edition of The Camby’s Tipsy Tea Party to chat with her about her new cookbook, Gather and Graze, and what’s next.
What made you choose Scottsdale Culinary Institute for your study?
I had gone to the University of Michigan for my undergrad and it was really cold. My sister lived here in Scottsdale and I thought that sounded lovely. Scottsdale Culinary Institute was only a one-year program at the time, I had already had four years of college, so I wanted an accelerated program.
You worked with a lot of prominent chefs early on in your career. What did that feel like?
We were just in town cooking at Nirvana with Beau MacMillan, and he was the chef I worked with the longest when I moved out here. I loved it. He was awesome, gave me a lot of opportunity to learn in his kitchen and learn that I didn’t learn everything in culinary school. It was a great first step.
How do you prep for Food Network competitions?
You can’t really prepare for competitions that much, other than just continuing to push myself. Sometimes I’ll just think about a certain protein, fish or vegetable, or something I haven’t used in a while and take notes when watching the show.
What did it feel like to win? You were the first female chef to ever win that competition.
For Top Chef it was awesome; it was like 11 years ago now. Being a woman, I like to think of myself as a good chef, not a good female chef, because I’d rather not be pigeonholed that way. At the same time, there have been so many young women who have reached out to me over the years who have said they feel inspired to do this. If I can help other people get into the industry or feel inspired to push through, then that’s fantastic.
Your son is only two years old: what’s that juggle like?
I still work long hours so I shifted it so I spend time with him in the morning. I go to work at 9 a.m. and I always get him at 8 p.m. He doesn’t go to bed until 8:30 or 9 p.m. I make time to hang out with him on weekends and whenever I can. Since I have three restaurants now, I don’t need to be there every day because I can’t possibly be at all of them at once. Even though I go into them every day, I can’t be like the sous chef in charge so it makes it a little easier to pull away.
So in some ways, having grown makes it easier?
Yes. I had one chef say to me once, opening up the second restaurant is the hardest but once you get to three it gets easier in a way because you have to change your position, you have to be more of a delegator and overseer, and you can’t possibly be in charge of prepping an item, doing all the things.
Tell us about your new cookbook, Gather and Graze.
It’s all about gathering with your friends and family, grazing and eating. Food is about bringing people together and having fun. It’s just about fun different flavors, all different recipes from my three restaurants coming together.
How easy are the recipes to make?
We don’t use a lot of crazy cooking techniques; you don’t have to go buy any crazy mechanical things or ingredients. There are a couple things you may have to source from an Asian grocer or another market, but there are tips sprinkled in the book.
What’s with the use of the word “goat” in your restaurants?
My last name is a type of goat in France; it’s a mountain goat that lives in the Pyrenees. My first restaurant was named SCYLLA (it’s a Mediterranean sea monster in Greek mythology). It was really hard to pronounce. When I learned that about my last name I said, well that’s really fun and much easier to say, so we went with Girl and the Goat.
I cooked goat for the first time after we picked the name; a lot of people come in and have goat for the first time here. We serve it in beginner things like a goat empanada. I put together goat and cheese and yumminess inside of an empanada; it’s going to be delicious. The goat we get is from a local farm. It’s very pure-tasting, and doesn’t have that gaminess at all.
Anything else on the horizon we should know about?
There is something but I can’t tell you just yet. In the next few weeks we’ll be announcing a new restaurant project, so that will be exciting. I have a sauce and spice line and that’s a huge focus of mine right now. We have a catering company called Goat Group Catering. We have enough goat things happening.
LAST BOOK YOU READ
Some baby book like two years ago.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL?
A giraffe, it’s my son’s favorite and then I could be taller.
FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR
FAVORITE BRUNCH SPOT
Lula Café in Chicago.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE
MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON
WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF
Energetic, fun, ambitious.
IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ANYONE FOR A DAY
My two-year-old; everything excites him.
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW
Toy Story 3.
COFEE OR TEA
SUNSET OR SUNRIES
BEER OR WINE
WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE
Ernie [my son]
WHAT’S SOMETHING/SOMEONE YOU CONSIDER ICONIC?
Daniel Bouloud. He’s iconic but at the same time still super-active.