Exposure to too many cuisine types might scare your average chef into one narrow pantry of ingredients. Not Brandon Kida. The son of a first generation Japanese-American father and a fourth generation Japanese mother, Kida was born into a melting pot of culinary traditions. Growing up in the patchwork ethnic diversity of Los Angeles, with a family life that revolved around cooking, Kida’s cultural and culinary perspectives were widened at a very early age. Whether he was tasting his mother’s freeform experiments with Italian and Mexican cuisine, savoring his Irish neighbor’s traditional Shepherd’s Pie, or helping his father with his meticulous preparations of nostalgic Japanese comfort food, Kida quickly discovered just how far the horizons of cuisine stretched.
In 2001, the aspiring chef brought this savor for diversity to The Culinary Institute of America, where he harnessed a hunger for variety with discipline, technique, and a focus he learned from his father. After graduating, Kida moved back home to the warmer shores of Los Angeles, where he perfected his craft at some of the city’s top restaurants such as L’Orangerie. From there, he returned to New York to work at the legendary Lutèce before joining the opening team at Asiate.
Working his way up the ranks to sous chef and eventually chef de cuisine in 2009, Kida has perfected his culinary expressions in the kitchen of Asiate. It is there that the chef’s elegant, eclectic palate has free reign to create signature dishes, like Buckwheat and Eggs and Butter-Poached Lobster with White Polenta, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms and Kaffir Emulsion, marrying diverse flavors and techniques with a grace of execution—and broadening culinary horizons in his own right.
Interview with Chef Brandon Kida of Asiate- New York, NY
Emily Bell: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Brandon Kida: Both of my parents were great cooks, so an appreciation for good food and drink was instilled at an early age. Yearly trips to Japan further piqued my interest in culinary culture. So, from a young age I had a real desire to excel in the culinary field.
EB: Did you go to culinary school? Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs? Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary school background?
BK: I attended The Culinary Institute of America. I do recommend going to culinary school. It provides a good foundation and great networking. I always find myself meeting and connecting with graduates. It has helped my career tremendously. I find myself hiring chefs both with and without a culinary education. Culinary school can only give you a base. It’s up to the individual to succeed.
EB: What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?
BK: Travel as much as possible in order to learn about different cultures. Try every possible food.
EB: What goes into creating a dish?
BK: First, your overall knowledge. Then, inspiration, creativity, testing, testing, more testing, adjustments, and testing.
EB: From where do you draw inspiration?
BK: It may sound a little silly, but sometimes inspiration comes from a simple act, like walking down the street and smelling cinnamon in the air.
EB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
BK: I try to keep things as simple as possible, while at the same time fulfilling my creativity.
EB: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as a chef?
BK: By far the most challenging aspect of the restaurant business is the people. Your staff is everything. Without a passionate and talented team that gets along, you’re nothing. It’s a little dramatic, but true.
EB: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your job?
BK: Our profession is pretty harmless in the big scope of things. I guess the hardest thing I’ve had to do is fire someone. After a while cooks aren’t just cooks, they’re your family.
EB: If you had one thing you could do over, what would it be?
BK: I would have learned more and experienced more before I started my career.
EB: What’s next? Where will we find you in five years?
BK: Hopefully, I’ll be doing a lot of traveling and learning. I have no idea where I’ll be in five years, and I really don’t want to know just yet.