The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

In the Kitchen with Chef Eric Greenspan

In the Kitchen with Chef Eric Greenspan

In the Kitchen

February 27, 2011

Chef Eric Greenspan began his foray into the restaurant business as a dishwasher at Café Med in Berkeley, California. He later attended acclaimed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, France and went on to train in New York with such celebrated chefs as Alain Ducasse, David Bouley, and Rocco DeSpirito, as well as apprenticing at three star Michelin chef Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Rosas, Spain. In 2007, Greenspan opened The Foundry on Melrose in Los Angeles to rave reviews. Recently, Greenspan defeated Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and is currently planning the opening of his second restaurant, a quick serve concept called Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese. We talked to Greenspan about the importance of “humanizing” the fine dining experience.

What is the main focus of your cooking?
At the Foundry on Melrose, I like to be bold in flavor and imagination but in a comfortable and familiar way. At the end of the day though the focus is on maximizing quality. So you have to start with the best ingredients and then apply superior technique. All of that aside, the overall focus is on giving the customer a great time and exceeding their expectations.

Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?

I've often said that I cook health food for the soul, meaning I focus first and foremost on deliciousness. I don't cook the kind of food you should eat everyday, and I don't think the Foundry experience is for the everyday diner. I prefer to think of a meal here as the reward for eating nutritionally the rest of your week. Part of a nutritional focus is balance, and you need to splurge every now and again to truly live healthy.
What is your relationship with local farmers?

I share a great sense of camaraderie and respect for our local farmers and try to showcase their toils to the best of my abilities. The menu process begins with what they bring to market, and I try to match the passion they put into their crops with the passion I put into my dishes. I relish the opportunity to discuss with local farmers what they are planning for the next season and to work together to fuse innovative produce with innovative presentations.

Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your dishes? How?

Using locally grown products is a priority in my cuisine, because it brings about not only a positive message but also an underlying sense of balance. Great cuisine always begins on a local level because it establishes a sense of synergy with local social mores, traditions, and culture, while diminishing the carbon footprint of our restaurant and financially supporting those that support you. It takes a village.
What are the major concerns today of your patrons when it comes to dining out? And how are you addressing them?

Today's patrons share a major concern with both cost and quality, two often diametrically opposed concerns. This reinforces a commitment to local and seasonal product, because the more local and seasonal a product is, the less expensive it becomes. That is the beauty of seasonal cooking. However, sourcing can be difficult sometimes, so you have to be able to constantly adapt and be creative with your options. A true chef is one who can make exciting cuisine without reliance on luxury or imported ingredients.

How important is sustainability?

Sustainability is a buzzword these days and needs to be taken seriously. We need to focus on products that maintain a positive natural balance, especially since I plan on being around for a while. Highlighting sustainable ingredients and focusing on them allows you to cook at a high level knowing you can replicate the result for years to come. Our role as chefs is to create a harmony with nature’s bounty, not to contribute to its downfall.

How important is traceability?

Traceability is equally important to a chef's product sourcing. You need to know where you're from to know where you are. I take great pride in working with great purveyors and farmers so that I know where everything is coming from, so I can react to changes in the environment and marketplace without sacrificing a devotion to conscientious practices.

What steps does your restaurant take toward conservation?

Our restaurant takes great steps towards conservation. First and foremost is a devotion to using every bit of product and limiting waste, whether it be creating stocks, purees, or preserves with trim or unused product. Further, all our trash is separated daily to aid in recyclability and diminish landfill contribution. Finally, our entire staff takes great effort in maintaining a recycling program, not just with glass bottles and aluminum cans, but also with cardboard and packaging as well.