Andrew Knowlton is a good looking guy. I overheard more than one woman the evening of Hamburger Hop swoon as his name was mentioned or they caught a glimpse! I knew he was outspoken but I wasn’t sure if his Hampton’s good looks played a role in his persona.
As we sat down to chat, he was very down to earth and we were laughing about being “old” and certain tasks of jumping from a stage weren’t so easy any more. I appreciated his sarcasm when we were discussing his twitter handle and knew we’d get along well. For a food writer, you’d expect him to be “more than human” in his tastes. But, I quickly found he was very down to earth and liked simple things where you could tell someone cared as they plated the dish.
Name Andrew Knowlton
Kids Julip, 3yrs old and second is due in February
From Gainesville Fl., then Atlanta, GA & lives in Brooklyn, NY
University Bates College & then a little at NYU
Twitter Handle andrewoknowlton – andrewknowlton was taken by some actor in Canada – CFS: Stupid Canadians – AK: Ya, he had to be Canadian (laughter from both of us)
1. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
AK: I had 6 oysters (Misty Points) and fish tacos at GT Fish, with a Goose Island Green Line. I like that place for lunch and I love oysters.
CFS: He’s a great guy and good friend. I like his menu is always changing.
AK: Ya, he’s a nice guy. I met him last night.
2. Place you eat out most often?
Prime Meats in Brooklyn – down the street from my house.
3. If you got $10,000, how would you spend it?
CFS: However you want
AK: I would get a private jet and fly to Tokyo. I would start at Tsukiji market for sushi and then take the jet to Kyoto and at a B&B there have a pretty geisha make me lunch. (laughing)
CFS: So the wife’s not with you?
AK: (Both of us laughing) NO, no. Come on $10,000…No, I would definitely go to Tokyo. It’s probably my favorite city in the world for food.
4. First word that comes to mind when I say Michelin?
5. Favorite Charity Event that you work with?
Share our Strength
6. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
Ya, definitely Tokyo
7. If you weren’t in publishing, what would you do for a living?
AK: I would want to be a musician. I’d like to be a lead guitar for Radiohead.
CFS: There on SNL tonight
AK: I know and I’m going to Jane’s Addiction tonight, big music fan.
8. Most exotic vacation destination that you’ve been to?
Masai Mara Game reserve in Kenya.
9. Most embarrassing moment in your career?
AK: Every episode of Iron Chef I was on (laughing)
CFS: Because you were on Iron Chef or…
AK: No it’s just that…
CFS: Was it the hair then?
AK: Ya, that was a big controversy. Bourdain pegged me the Breck Boy after the shampoo. I still can’t live it down. (Laughing)
CFS: It’s Bourdain he’s never going to let you live it down.
10. Person you would most like to go to dinner with?
That’s tough….I’d say JFK.
11. What is the biggest issue facing the Publishing industry?
AK: It’s the great elephant in the room. How are we going to split the digital world and do that! There’s huge opportunities for magazines and especially food magazines.
CFS: With the iPad it’s huge to be able to hyperlink and see video and content.
AK: Ya, if we’re able to show a picture of a roast chicken from Thomas Keller and then you press on that and see him make that…it’s huge.
12. What are you most excited about right now?
13. Do you have any pet peeves?
AK: I have a lot…I hate honking horns.
CFS: (Laughter) So you live in NYC…
AK: Ya, I hate it…drives me nuts. I hate paying for internet access in hotels. It’s like 1985 and they’re still charging.
CFS: It’s dial up speed.
AK: Ya…and they haven’t figured out how to put outlets in rooms. (Laughing) Those are my pet peeves today.
14. Karaoke song?
Take on Me, Aha
15. You’ve said tis about the food on the plate…what are you focused on more technique, flavor, seasoning, creativity?
AK: It sounds cheesy but if there’s passion or a point of view on the plate. So much today is chef’s regurgitating whatever they‘ve eaten or seen, beet salad this or chicken pate that
CFS: You’re tired of the beet salad with goat cheese and arugula – that’s happened?
AK: I’m done. That’s my biggest thing. That someone gives a damn.
16. What city in the US is the most exciting for food right now?
AK: That’s tough. If I had to go…I think LA when it comes to ethnic is huge. I haven’t even tapped that resource. But, if I had to go to one city right now…it would probably be….I’ve gotta go with San Francisco. They’ve picked it up a bit. It’s not just the Chez Pannise thing anymore. It’s more avant garde now.
AK: You’ve gotta go with Copenhagen it’s the center of the universe for food now.
17. You seem to get flack for your honesty. Is there a line not to cross even if the criticisms true?
I try to be respectful but whether its professionally in a magazine or TV they want me there for a reason. If everything’s good then nothings good, logic would say. I won’t get personal with anybody but there putting them self out there like I’m putting myself out there with my writing.
18. How do you reconcile food critics who have never worked in a restaurant or at any level of restaurant they’re reviewing?
I think a little bit of experience helps but I don’t think every critic needs to have worked in the kitchen or the front of the house. The number one thing is you need to be a great writer. Second, you need to have a curiosity and represent your readers. I hate critics that have pet peeves who don’t eat this or that…by your job definition you have to eat that. Someone out there is eating it.
19. You labeled Ruxbin as one of the Best New Restaurants in America this past August. Were there any other Chicago spots that were in the running?
There were a few…I don’t want to say. There were 5 or 6. But, Ruxbin had that point of view and passion that blew me away both times I was there. It’s like the little train that could.
20. Are there must do spots every time you’re in Chicago?
I always find myself at Nightwood at the bar eating fried smelts if I can. I like Franks ‘n Dawgs – I know Hot Doug’s is the big boy in town…and I love Edzo’s for their burgers. I like that simple stuff when I come to Chicago
21. Who has better style you or Adam Rapoport?
(pauses) He gets all his cues from his days at GQ. Mine is self invented. He’s a better dresser but he also makes more money than I do. (laughter) I can’t afford it. He can afford some nice Thom Browne.
22. With Hamburger Hop being the kick-off event. What do you prefer on your burger and where do you go out for one?
AK: I’m simple…thin patty, lettuce, mayo, pickles, ketchup, onion – California style burger. For the burger…every place in NYC has a burger, I gotta say the Shake Shack burger has to be my favorite right now.
CFS: The classic smash it down…
AK: White soft bun none of this brioche crap.
Andrew thanks for taking the time during a busy weekend of events. Good luck with the horns of NYC and I’ll be curious to see how Szechwan pops up in the future.
If you liked these 20 questions, check out the how Ryan Poli, Francis Brenna, Giuseppe Tentori, Charlie McKenna, Chris Pandel , Michael Muser, Curtis Duffy , Rob Katz/Kevin Boehm, Michael Taus, Chris Curren, Patricio Sandoval, Bill Terlato, Matthias Merges , Vic Perdue, Sheila O’Grady, and Adam Rapoport answered.
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner. and contributes to Eater Chicago.