Interview with Chef Alex Mitow: DJ, Caterer, and Broth Brahman!

This exceptionally biting winter has birthed a new foodie craze in the form of bone broth by the cup. While I have yet to fully immerse myself in this soupy tradition, I’ve always found that a little meat stock and a lot of love does wonders for the body and soul.

No stranger to the funky food fads of New York, Chef Alex Mitow has masterminded a melting pot of epic proportions in conjunction with Greg Spielberg and fellow NY pop-up star Imagination in Space. This Saturday, March 14th, the inflatable Sugarcube pavilion at South Street Seaport will be transformed into a bouillon cube to host Broth Fest, a toasty warm pop-up that joins several eateries like the famed Katz’s Deli. Other participants include Baz Bagel, Caracas Arepa Bar, and Spur Tree.

Last year, Alex thrilled me with his All-American Diner pop-up, and on separate occasions, I’ve been wowed by his work at events like The Big Cheesy and The Thrillist Taco Knockout! His Taylor Swiss Grilled Cheese with Truffled Duck Mousse was proof that one can teach an old concept new tricks.

Previously the owner of Colombian Hot Dog restaurant Los Perros Locos, Alex has recently shifted to promoting his event planning company FAME and hosting art shows and fairs at his LESpace pop-up.

Recently, I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview Alex despite his busy schedule.

1. Why broth?

Broth is the hottest (no pun intended) NYC food trend this season, and there is a lot of debate about it. Is it just glorified soup? Is it a magical elixir? The new Gatorade? We decided that rather than just speculate, we’d hold a pop-up around the broth craze and let the public decide! No matter what the outcome, the eight chefs we have involved are sure to whip up a delicious spread of broths!

2. What’s your favorite dish that you’ll be serving at Broth Fest?

Of course I’m excited for FAME’s “Sake To Me”, a dry-sake based broth with kobe beef bones simmered with lemongrass and other assorted herbs. Besides that, we’re super psyched for the new TriBeCa spot Belle Reve’s Blackened Butter Broth as well as the old school matzoh ball soup version from Katz’ Deli.

3. How did you first find yourself in the world of cooking?

I grew up sleeping in booths at my family’s restaurant in Florida and cooking just sort of came about as a natural consequence. These days I’m spending more time behind my laptop and on my feet about town than in my commercial kitchen, but I still experiment at home and play with ideas on paper that our FAME team turns into reality.

4. How do you experiment with flavors/choose combinations for your dishes?

I’m a big eater and have been exposed to so many tastes. With cooking and flavor combos, a lot of the time I’m not so much trying things physically so much as putting together ingredients and combinations that sound like they’ll work well together on paper or in my cell phone’s note pad. The New York Times quoted me as saying that I wrote the menu for Los Perros Locos “in fifteen minutes on my cell phone” but I’m not that big of a douche. It was more like an hour.

5. What made you shift from Los Perros Locos to FAME/ LESpace?

I’ve spent ten years on and off doing brick and mortar restaurants and it’s kind of an addiction. It’s hard for me to walk by an empty space and not see it as some type of concept restaurant. LPL was one of those. However, the day to day grind and constant worry of a restaurant combined with the astronomical costs and questionable city policy in NYC wore on me. At the same time, I was producing more events and enjoyed that more, as well as getting deeper into the arts and music world (I own a gallery and also DJ on the side) so I decided to transition into something that capitalized on my F&B background while allowing me the creative freedom to do what I enjoy.

6. Got any funny kitchen/catering nightmares?

Way too many to list! People think the events business is glamorous, I beg them to imagine the owner of the events company biking through the Lower East Side with a suckling pig on the handlebars looking for an oven to cook it in because the oven at the pop up venue isn’t working.

7. What’s next?

FAME stands for Food, Art, Music, and Events and we have events coming up in all of these spheres. Food-wise we’re big fans of single-food festivals like Broth Fest and have a whole bunch more up our sleeve in the coming year, spread all around downtown. We’ve also been planning a monthly Night Bizarre* event that would combine food, fashion, as well as live art and musical performance, into a one night extravaganza at a yet to be named downtown space. Besides that, we’ll be continuing to provide bespoke catering for the arts and theatre community, as well as producing some awesome art events and gallery shows in the next few months. As I always say, big things poppin’, lil things stoppin’!

* Yet another clever pun!

Photo by James Miille of Irisism Photography.

Photo by James Miille of Irisism Photography.

Tickets for Broth Fest are available at this link with tastings selling for $33 in one hour chunks: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/broth-fest-at-south-street-seaport-tickets-15880705618

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