Art of Food's Meet The Chef: Rebecca Richards, Chef at Flex Mussels


Make text smaller Make text larger



Photos




When did you start cooking?


I am a product of a single mother. She commuted for work for an hour and a half each day, both ways. So when I was a kid, she would call me and ask me what was for dinner. I started when I was three years old making macaroni and cheese—things like that. She told me that I was always very angry when I couldn't get to the sink to scrub it out.

So I've always cooked for people and my family, and as I got older I just kept cooking more and more: I went from doing part of Thanksgiving to cooking all of Thanksgiving.

Where are you from?

The West Coast. I was born in L.A., and went to high school in Eugene, Oregon. I played college sports in Mississippi, and lasted about a year playing sports. I started waiting tables in arts school—so very typical.

I fell in love with restaurants and quit sports. Used my art degree for culinary purposes. There was nothing I wanted to do more than work in restaurants, whether it was doing dishes or scrubbing the floors, waiting tables—anything.

What brought you to New York?

I was a chef at a steak house way out in the country in Mississippi. It was awesome: bring your own alcohol, thirteen items on the menu, people would wait hours for a table. I had hit the top. I was running the place. I had relationships with all of the local farmers. There was really no place else for me to go, so I told everyone that I was going to try my hand at New York. They all said I was crazy and that Mississippi doesn't make it there. And it was tough to get people to give me a shot. Culinarily speaking, New Yorkers don't think anyone but New Yorkers can cook, unless you're from France. Fortunately for me, I got a job as a fry cook here at Flex Mussels, and after pestering them for a year, they gave me a shot at the chef job.

How does your art degree influence your culinary career?

With plating: colors, composition, keeping things vibrant and looking a certain way. I use the principals of balance and harmony in visual and three-dimensional art in everything.

What is your favorite kind of artwork?

I was actually a potter, and I studied under Pablo Sierra who is a famous potter from Spain. He moved to Mississippi and lived in a little shack house. He and I would go dig clay and make plates, pots, teacups, and things like that. I learned to recognize the type of earth we were using, and know what color it would turn when we applied fire to it.

So when I became a professional chef, my mom always said: “When you open your own restaurant you can make your own plates.”

Any cooking tips?

Most things are going to need lemon, and salt reduces heat. Most people think that you would add sugar to take the spice away, but it's really salt.

To find out more or to buy tickets to Art of Food 2017, go to artoffoodny.com.




Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments



MUST READ NEWS

Image Casualties of the shutdown
As venomous politics and dysfunction in Washington bring federal governance screeching to a halt, Manhattan absorbs a body slam
Image The metamorphosis of a hospital
It’s eastward ho as Lenox Hill redevelops an entire blockfront on Third Avenue, mulls a big sale on Park Avenue — and ruffles community feathers amid demands for...
Image The unsung art of being ready
Behind every great Broadway star there is another type of actor — the understudy
Image Become a volunteer, you’ll be glad you did

“We always need children’s underwear,” said my hospital guide. “We just can’t have enough.” The packages with colorful images...

Image The ghostly remnant
Or how a 19th-century UES church popped up in all its majesty when a private school razed an old parking garage — and why its resurrection could prove fleeting

VIDEOS



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters





MOST READ

Local News
The metamorphosis of a hospital
  • Jan 15, 2019
Local News
Casualties of the shutdown
  • Jan 15, 2019
Features
Winter Education Guide 2019
  • Jan 15, 2019
Local News
The unsung art of being ready
  • Jan 15, 2019
Education Guide
Back to school, after 40 gap years
  • Jan 15, 2019

MOST COMMENTED