Throughout the New York City Food & Wine Festival this weekend, Eater welcomes bloggers, journalists and food world stars to our lounge at the Standard Hotel. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge. Right now: Dirt Candy's Amanda Cohen.
So you just celebrated your two year anniversary?
We opened in the worst month, in October 2008, when the economy crashed. Back in 2008 everyone was like, "Why would you open this month?" I didn't plan it! But that's when it opened, and we were lucky and small enough and new enough and different enough. But we've made it this far.
And now you're booked solid. When did that start happening?
Around January of 2009, something happened. A bunch of articles came out. The first to review it was the New Yorker.
So you have a blog, like a few chefs do — do you think your stuff is intentionally controversial, or are you just speaking to your mind? It's how I'm feeling. It's meant to be fun, for my customers and fans, the point is never to be controversial. When the New York Times' review came out, I obviously had a lot of feelings about it. And because we have so many regulars, they were really excited to see who I felt. Afterwards, people came up to me and said we were right.
Now that the restaurant is two years old, what are you tweaking? Well, we're making the restaurant better. We know there are a lot of things that can improve. We're trying to change the menu more often. The restaurant is too small to have two servers in the floor. So I'm a part-time server. And I'm a terrible server. And then I'm cooking the food, doing the blog, waiting tables, it's all very mom-and-pop.
How does it compare to working in a big place? It's very different. The restaurant is so much a reflection of me, and it makes me a crazier person. God bless Jorge my sous chef. When you're just the chef, you don't have to worry about so many things. As an the owner, you don't have the money to pay the bills. There are lot of sleepless nights. People are like, 'But you're still here! You must be fine.' But when we have a bad night, like when nobody's drinking, I get worried. It affects you when you're small, especially versus a large restaurant, where they can compensate for fluctuations like that.
What about TV, you did Iron Chef, are you doing any more? Nothing yet, it was really fun doing Iron Chef, but all these extra things get in the way of doing what I want to do, which is cook. You do tastings or TV and you can't cook. It makes me anxious. Already at the restaurant, I'm not cooking as much, I'm spending half the time on the floor. Even these tastings and these interviews.
So why not get go bigger? I'd love to go bigger, and if someone wants to invest, sure! But I'm not going to to open another by myself. Do you know an investor?
Vegetables are the new "in" thing. Does that excite you, bother you?s Who knew i was so cool? My worry is it's definitely a trend, and it makes me nervous about it, because it may go away. It's been pretty hard to make people eat their vegetables, even today at the Grand Tasting, everyone's going for the mini-cone, and they're not taking our vegetables. I feel like a carnival barker. That's what I don't get about Meatless Mondays. It's a nice concept, but I don't understand why you can't just add a couple of vegetable dishes on your menu all the time. Vegetarians have become second-class citizens.
And I heard you may do a swap with John Fraser at Dovetail one night? Yeah, it could be fun. I'm excited for him, I want to see how he does. I'd like to see how Dirty Candy looks like in a big fancy restaurant. And I always like to see other chefs try to work in Dirt Candy's kitchen. He has big expectations that he's going to 60 covers at Dirt Candy and turn the tables 3 1/2 times that night. We'll see.