You may know Kerry Heffernan as one of the last four chefs competing on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters but I know him as the chef who invented the Shake Shack Burger, which is a really delicious burger! Kerry has an awe-inspiring culinary career graduating at the top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America and becoming the executive chef at some of the best restaurants in New York City like Eleven Madison Park and South Gate. Kerry remains active outside the kitchen in philanthropy, serving on the City Harvest Food Council and cooking for Share Our Strength, Project by Project, and both the Central Park and Madison Square Park Conservancies and as an advisor to several nonprofit agencies charged with seafood sustainablity and conservation. Kerry knows more about fish than any other chef in New York. He was even a guest judge on the Top Chef All Stars fishing episode. I’m definitely rooting for him to win Top Chef Masters. I had the privilege of walking with Kerry through the Union Square Greenmarket while he shopped for fresh produce. We chatted about everything from restaurants to a career in the culinary world to his favorite thing to do, fishing.
1) You’re killing it on Top Chef Masters! Is it harder to judge or be judged?
Absolutely harder to be on that side where you stand and sweat a lot!
2) Are you guys all really friends?
Yes, absolutely, all the folks whose lives were built on being in restaurants made certain that we would handle ourselves as professionals. We became fast friends and still keep in touch often.
3) What have you learned from this experience?
What I’m capable of doing under highly distressed situations with cameras rolling! But truthfully, while in the process, I was up against an extremely tough and unyielding opponent, my own knowledge of what I could do and where I could do better everytime.
4) How do you feel about being a celebrity chef and getting recognized?
It’s nice but if we can do anything it is to bring attention to very needy organizations like City Harvest. We do that as chefs probably 18 times a year anyway in various events and to bring awareness to issues like sustainability and the health of our children’s schools and the sanctity of the food chain.
5) You’re a serious chef, you’ve trained in some of the most famous and prestigious restaurants in New York. How do you feel about the changing landscape of the culinary world?
Well, we all get what we ask for in the end so hopefully people are better educated and wiser in the choices they make given all the media input and availability of information via the internet. This is not to say that there is not a lot of crap out there especially in that delicate balance of entertainment and food that is in most culinary programming these days. Gone for the most part are the “stand and stirs” if a show doesn’t have conflict, a gimmick, and or a sassy host, it will not likely see much in the way of air time. Oh well, America voted with the remote!
6) What’s your go-to meal that you cook when you’re crunched for time?
7) This is going to be a hard question to answer since a lot of your friends are chefs but what are your favorite restaurants in New York?
Daniel Boulud (any flavor), David Bouley (likewise), Colicchio & Sons, Grammercy Tavern, Kun Jip, Bon Chon, and Won Jo
8) What are you favorite things to do on the weekends?
Fish, garden, time with my family, forage, fish, tennis, driving, paddleboarding, fishing, putzing around my boat, and fish.
9) You’re known as the fish master. What’s one thing everyone should know when cooking fish?
Get it fresh and respect the flavor, texture and above all DO NOT OVERCOOK IT!!
10) What’s next for you chef?
A book about 12 months in Sag Harbor!
For more on Kerry’s bio click here