In the Kitchen
philippe chow

Philippe Chow on His Guilty Pleasure & the One Dish He Can’t Stand

The famous chef also spilled on the strangest thing in his pantry and what he always listens to in the kitchen.

By: Jodi Taylor
Photography: Alec Kugler

Off Manhattan Avenue in New York, tucked away on E 60th street, you’ll find an upscale Chinese restaurant full of white tablecloths, dark hardwood, and exposed brick. While it looks elegant and promising, unless youre familiar with the name, you might not guess that the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Lebron James, Barack Obama, and Lady Gaga dine under the black-and-red awning regularly. The restaurant, Philippe by Philippe Chow, is the brainchild of famous chef by the same name Philippe Chow.

Chow, whos been known to do the YMCA in the kitchen, opened his namesake restaurant in 2005 and has since gained a loyal A-list following—Cardi B even held her album release party inside the contemporary restaurant. Chow, who won the title for Best Peking Duck by the New York Observer (it’s carved tableside at the restaurant), fell in love with cooking early on, when he would watch his mother prepare dishes at the young age of eight. We caught up with everyone’s favorite chef to talk his guilty pleasures, go-to midnight snacks, and who his most surreal guest was.

“I grew up in Guangdong, China, and first fell in love with food while watching my mother cook when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I was intrigued with the kitchen and moved to Hong Kong when I was 15 and started working in local restaurants. This is where I really began to learn how to cook and [began] experimenting in the kitchen. I moved to the U.S. in 1979 and continued to refine my cooking.”

“[The dish I’m preparing is] a Swai Fillet with peppers and white sauce. Swai fish is a type of white fish and not commonly used, but I wanted to experiment with something new. It’s not on the menu yet, but I love the texture. It’s tender, there’s no bones, and [it] cooks well.”

Ingredients:

1 lb Swai Fillet
1/3 cup red bell pepper
1/3 cup green bell pepper
1/3 cup yellow bell pepper
6 oz chicken soup
1 tsp. corn starch
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. salt

1) “Add 1/2 cup vegetable oil to a wok that is [on] medium-high heat. Add swai and quickly stir-fry for one minute.”

2) “Add salt and flour with chicken soup, as well as all bell peppers. Stir fry quickly to retain that tender bite.”

What you can always find in his fridge: “Fish and poultry. As for sauces, you can always find Chinese Oyster Sauce in my pantry.”

Go-to midnight snack? “Everything noodle-related. Something about it is always satisfying and fulfilling.”

Favorite dish on the menu: “Green Prawns!”

Guilty pleasure? “Fish—especially sushi. As a hobby, I enjoy heading out to Montauk and fishing for fresh catch.”

Last meal? “Steamed Siu Mei Ginger Chicken with a bowl of white rice. It holds a lot of memories for me and always hits home. I grew up eating this.”

One dish you cannot stand? “I don’t like anything with sweet-and-sour flavor notes, like hot and sour soup.”

“When [Bill Gates] first came to Philippe, he let me know he’d never had Chinese food that tasted so good. It was surreal.”

“I’ve been so blessed and lucky to have cooked for the best of the best. Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and more.”

“James Harden from the Houston Rockets [is a regular here]. He loves our Chicken Satay and Salt n’ Pepper Shrimp.”

“I’m always excited and happy when someone well-known is here. If we have a special guest, I personally prepare each dish to ensure perfection.”

Favorite ingredient to cook with: “Fresh Chile pepper—it adds a nice kick.”

“I love listening to Jackie Cheung [in the kitchen]. He’s a popular singer from Hong Kong.”

Most surreal moment of your career: “When I first opened Philippe. I was nervous it wouldn’t be a success at first, but am so proud of my team and how far we have come.”

“Once everyone leaves, I like to get sit in the dark and enjoy a cup of tea, just me alone with my thoughts. This is one part of the day I own as I am entirely undisturbed.”

“Not sure craziest [request], but perhaps more extravagant—as you know Philippe has a who’s-who list of clients. This one Saturday, I was asked by one of the notables to fly to L.A. on a private plane, and waiting on the tarmac for me [would be] four guests to cook for. I was offered a small fortune to cook, as much as I was tempted, I had to decline as I was needed at the restaurant. Another time perhaps.”

“I always tell my chefs that they need to be satisfied with the food they cook before it’s brought out. If they’re not satisfied with it, how can we expect our customers to be satisfied?”

“I love sharing some of the dishes and cuisine I grew up eating with others. I love watching people come together at the dinner table and bonding over a meal.”

“I love working with my hands and creating things. If I wasn’t a chef, I would be a fine carpenter. I love to control the process from start to finish and see something evolve from beginning to end.”

The strangest thing in your home pantry: “A1 Sauce.”

“Our pastry chef, Terri Dreisbach, created the Birthday Cake special. It’s made with her signature milk chocolate pound cake and topped with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, vibrant candy, sugar ornaments, and lit with sparklers. It’s available on the menu all the time—for birthdays or just to order for fun.”

Favorite spots to eat at in New York: “Dim Sum from Bite of Hong Kong in Chinatown—order the shrimp dumplings. I also enjoy Korean BBQ, it is one of my guilty pleasures. I like Miss Korea BBQ in K town, it is open 24/7.”

Advice he would give to those looking to start their own restaurant: “You need to be ‘all in.’ Let passion guide you and follow your vision. If you have a unique idea, you must follow it and don’t get distracted. Being nervous and stressed is good—never overthink or doubt your vision.”

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