Many Serious Eaters know Harold Dieterle as the winner of the first season of Top Chef in 2005. With his winnings, he and partner Alicia Nosenzo opened Perilla in 2007 in the West Village—a favorite of both regulars in the neighborhood and those who come from afar seeking a taste of the dishes that earned Harold his title. He and Alicia will be opening their second venture in the fall, a contemporary Thai restuarant called Kin Shop, at Sixth Avenue and 12th Street. Harold talks to us about his love for Thai cooking, his dreams of becoming a Navy fighter pilot, and the lure of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
Name: Harold Dieterle
Location: West Village
Occupation: Chef/Owner, Perilla, Kin Shop
When did you first decide that you wanted to cook for a living? I'm sure I'm not the only one who's said this, but I took a home economics class in high school to meet girls—and it was love at first sight. The cooking, that is. I also remember making fried chicken for the first time in this class and that was a revelation.
Who have been your strongest culinary influences throughout your life and career so far? My family. We regularly had traditional Sunday suppers and it was just a wonderful experience. Growing up, the big bowls of pasta and red sauce with the whole family around the table digging in—that's a great memory.
If you weren't a chef, what else would you do? I'd be a Navy fighter pilot. But I have terrible vision, so that may not have worked out.
Your new place, Kin Shop, is set to open in the Fall. How did you decide you wanted to focus on Thai cuisine? I love the simple yet bold flavors, as well as the country and culture—I've traveled extensively there. Thai food is something I personally enjoy eating and I want to bring that experience to diners.
What are your biggest concerns about juggling two restaurants and how do you hope to overcome them? It's just like having two children: they both need love and attention. I'm really fortunate to have such a great business partner in Alicia Nosenzo; she brings so much experience to the table. We also made an effort to find a space for Kin Shop that is close to Perilla—about a 7 minute walk, I believe.
If you could put together a three course meal (including dessert) with dishes from three different NYC restaurants, what would you include? Cacio e Pepe at Lupa, Crispy Duck with Fried Basil at Holy Basil, and Steamed Lemon Pudding at Locanda Verde.
Do you have any food that you'd consider to be a guilty pleasure that we might be shocked to learn about? It's not too shocking, but I can't resist a grilled ham and cheese sandwich—with mozzarella cheese.