While at the Toast of the Town at Lincoln Center there was one dish we kept going back to (three times actually) and it was served by the Pranna booth. Lamb sliders with the most incredible spicy peanuts. I just knew we had to interview the chef and head out to the restaurant ASAP. Chef Keith Kornfeld is responsible for the dishes served at Pranna where the cuisine is modern Southeast Asian with authentic flavors, presented in an amazingly beautiful modern presentation. He picked up his skills in his youth and perfected them at various establishments including The Outrigger on the Lagoon, Fiji The Evason Phuket Resort and Spa, Phuket Thailand Coco Palm Resort and Spa, Maldives The Royal Orchid Sheraton Towers, Bangkok Thailand The Westin Banyan Tree, Bangkok Thailand The Orchid at Mauna Lani, Hawaii. We caught up with Chef Kornfeld to get into the nitty gritty of what makes Pranna so special.
FriendsEAT: Chef Kornfeld, did you grow up cooking?
CKK: Yes, I began as a young hunter so I could basically butcher and clean a deer by the time I was 13 years old. From that point, I watched my older brother cook what we took home. Now I shoot with a Camera.
FE: Who was the biggest influence in your cooking?
CKK: That’s Easy, The Great People of Thailand and their specular cuisine that is simple, yet so complex. It captured me over 12 years ago when I first stepped on Thailand’s soil.
FE: What made you become a professional chef?
CKK: I have always cooked, but never professionally. So after years trying my hand as a Singer-Songwriter, going part-time to college and working for UPS for 8 years, I was 27 years old and needed to find my way to create and accomplish my dream; To Travel The World and Meet the People. Cooking Got Me There and More.
FE: What misconceptions do people have when coming into the field?
CKK: Many cooks think there is glory or that they are going to become “Chefs” just out of either culinary school or after they’ve worked in a couple of restaurants. Sorry to disappoint you, but It takes YEARS of dedication and sacrifice.
FE: What is the one tip you would give to a novice?
CKK: Keep your eyes and ears open and always read about food while trying to work under as many Great Chefs as possible.
FE: What are your three favorite cooking tools?
CKK: This incident woke me up to the industry and it’s hard reality. Once when I was a prep cook in my first restaurant, Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans, the kitchen was slammed as usual. The back Saute Line Cook dropped on the floor from the heat and exhaustion and I was told to drag him away so someone else cook take over his station. By the way, He Survived.
FE: What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
CKK: Fresh Seafood. It has a distinct flavor from the salt water that makes it easy to cook without much effort.
FE: So, when you’re home, what do you like to eat?
CKK: Believe it or not, Simple Asian Food.
FE: And your favorite cookbook?
CKK: Thai Food by David Thompson. David Thompson is an Australian Thai Cuisine Expert having the only Michelin Star Thai Restaurant in the world called Nahm in London. I was humbled to be personally invited by David in January 2010 to train under him. Great Experience, Great Book, Great Chef.
FE: What is the one etiquette in your kitchen that you are specially proud of?
CKK: If you drop it, pick it up – If you make a mess, clean it up.
Chef Keith Kornfeld’s Panaeng Lamb Curry with Lychee and Crispy Jasmine Rice (serves 1-2 persons)