NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Stephen Kalt has become a "go-to" chef to create Italian and Mediterranean restaurants at U.S. casinos.
Last summer, Kalt helped launch Fornelletto Cucina & Wine Bar and the more casual Roma at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Previously, the New York native had spent about five years as the executive chef of Corsa Cucina at the Wynn casino in Las Vegas.
Kalt, 52, spoke to Reuters about his cooking style, his family background and working with casinos.
Q: How did you develop your love for cooking?
A: "I was raised by my father and mother, who were really good cooks. My grandparents were from Eastern Europe. My mother's side was from a part of Romania that ran all the way east which had a certain Turkish influence. I always had this childhood sensibility with sweet and savory flavors, which was kind of Mediterranean. I also did a lot of my early training at Le Cirque with Daniel Boulud and I got my French training with him. I was very influenced by that Mediterranean sensibility."
Q: Describe your culinary style
A: "I became known early for my Spanish cooking at Spartina. We did a lot of earth and sea and not being afraid to mix ingredients like meats and fish. I became well regarded for my grilled pizzas from the guys I learned from Al Forno. In Vegas, I started doing contemporary Italian cooking. I became known to lighten up that food."
Q: You are a veteran chef. What still inspires you?
A: "The intellectual challenge is incredibly exciting. Just thinking out the process and figuring out how to marry an environment with service, style and philosophy and making each venue unique."
Q: What is the difference of opening up a restaurant in a casino than your own restaurant?
A: "There are so many influences that you have to be pretty strong and confident in what you're are doing. If you show them you have a very strong idea and purpose and philosophy, they generally let you do your thing. If you allow them, they will try to influence you in their own particular way. They are often very, very smart, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know better about what I do than I do."
Poached Halibut with brussel sprout leaves and almonds
Four 6 oz. halibut fillets
8 long chives or garnish
For poaching liquid
2 qts. water
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. sea salt or other
For the brussel sprouts
20-30 brussel sprouts
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tbsp. chopped shallots
1/2 tsp. sea salt or other
2 oz. extra virgin olive oil
1. Cut the end of the sprouts and peel the leaves off about half way. Save the rest for another use. Place 4 large plates on the counter by the stove.
2. In the rectangular baking dish or casserole, bring the poaching liquid to a boil, about 8-10 minutes. When it is about boiling, heat the skillet over medium flame for 3-4 minutes.
3. Place the fillets into the poaching liquid for 8-9 minutes. Bring the flame under the skillet up to high and add the extra virgin olive oil.
4. Add the sprout leaves and carefully turn the leaves and stir the leaves for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped shallots and almonds and continue carefully turning the sprout leaf mixture for 3 to 4 minutes.
5. Add some salt, turn the mixture, and shut the flame.
6. Place a paper or kitchen towel on the counter by the dinner plates.
7. With a slotted or other spatula, remove one fillet at a time, blot it on the towel, and place it in the center of the plate. Repeat with each fillet.
8. Spoon some of the sprouts and almond mixture onto each piece of fish. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on and around the fish and garnish with the chive spears.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney