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The Eater Lounge Interview Chain at Aspen Food & Wine

As part of the Eater Lounge at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, we asked each interview subject to ask a question for the next person that was to be interviewed. Here now, all in one place:

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Bobby Flay to Andrew Zimmern: Do you consider yourself a chef or a professional eater?
Andrew Zimmern: Great question. I consider myself a chef. I think like a lawyer or a doctor, whether you're practicing or not, you do not lose the title. I've been cooking since I was 14 years old. I was doing an interview before, and somebody saw me chumming around with my old boss Thomas Keller. They said, "I didn't know that you know him." I said, "Know him? I worked for him." I'm 51, I had the opportunity when I was coming up in New York to be working alongside some of the best chefs in the world when we were all line cooks.

I've been without a stove for about nine, ten years now. There's a whole generation of folks who have been turned on to my product who only know me as a professional eater or writer. They don't know me as a cook. The fun thing for me, as someone in the food business, is that I can go back again and do demos and stuff like that here and show people that there's another side to me. We're doing a cookbook after my kids book comes out in October. It's weird, one of the big things that I've tried to do that last three or four years is remind people that I'm a chef, not just an eater. But you paint a thousand pictures in life, no one calls you an artist; but you eat one coconut grub, and forever you're the buggy guy on TV.

Andrew Zimmern to Jenn Louis: The role of the chef. Part 1. Do you feel an extra responsibility to mentor women as a successful woman (as a Best New Chef) that now has a platform? Part 2 Is this a disease of perception, should we be even talking about the difference between a man and a woman running a kitchen?
Jenn Louis: Can I answer the second part first? It makes sense to answer it first. I didn't want to answer that question for a long, long time because I never wanted to be grouped in as different, and being a woman is different in a male-dominated profession.

Is there a big division? Yeah. I've seen it my whole career. But it doesn't matter to the diner who's cooking their food. It's about the plate set in front of them. First and foremost, when someone is enjoying a meal with friends, with family, they are going to enjoy their meal because of the level of cuisine and hospitality. What is most important is that you do a good job.

In terms of mentoring, I will bring anyone into my kitchens who shows promise, who is a hard worker, who is passionate, and who wants to learn. They can be a male or a female. I would love to see more women come into my kitchens. But I hire based on merit, ability, and promise versus anything else. I like to hire someone with a great sense of humor, who can laugh at themselves when things go wrong, and come back knowing that the next day is the next day.

So there, Andrew Zimmern!

Jenn Louis to Dana Cowin: Dana's around so many kinds of restaurants and food, what kind of restaurant would she open? What would the concept be, what would the food be, and what would the service be like?
Dana Cowin: First, I would like to say that I am smart enough never to open a restaurant. It's way too hard!

My originality is not focused on the restaurant world. I'd open a restaurant of the kind I like to eat. I am a moderately meatless individual and so I'd have a moderately meatless restaurant with an emphasis on amazing food from the farm, which is cliche, sorry, but I have this really deep interest in the new American palate. I would try to create a restaurant with that as the backbone. Backbone is fresh, local, a lot of vegetable green and fruit. We had fusion that was really sort of dreadful. But the next thing is the seamless integration of flavors from all different places. That's what I would like to do, because it would appeal to a new diner who would not find this strange because that's what they grew up with. It would lead the way to breaking down certain barriers without being trendy, pushy, or not tasty. And the service would be casual, welcoming, and kind. Of course!

Dana Cowin to Paul Qui: "If he was going to create a TV show, any kind of TV show, what would it be? Only one caveat: he has to be the star.
Paul Qui: How much ice cream can I eat?

Paul Qui to Christopher Kostow: What are your future plans?
Christopher Kostow: That's the toughest question. My future plans for Meadowood — I think with Meadowood right now, as a restaurant, the product is superlative — I say that in the service of people who do the work. I believe that diligence and persistence is at the core of what we're doing — what we're doing is as great as what everyone else is doing. Since we reopened, if people come in and are surprised, there's a misconception to what we're doing. I really believe that the one thing we need to improve upon is messaging.

Christopher Kostow to José Andrés.: How do you reconcile all the molecular with the new trends towards naturalism and nature?
José Andrés: I don't think you have to reconcile anything. Roquefort is molecular. If I explain to you the process of how the penicillium, how it transforms the cheese, the proteins in the cheese—at the same time it's very natural. So? [laughing] Me, I laugh hard? Come on.

You give me boiled asparagus with hollandaise. But one day you can go deeper and say, man, do you see what really happens with the protein and egg yolk and the butter. So I can explain this from a scientific point, but at the end, it's hollandaise. So I don't understand this issue of molecular. I know the questions keep popping up, but they've been reconciled during thousands of years. We are the only ones making it complicated. Juan Mari Arzak—the three-star Michelin chef, the father of the Spanish nouvelle cuisine movement—he said one day, "There's only two kinds of cooking: the bad cooking, and the good cooking." [laughter]

José Andrés to Jacques Pépin: How do you feel today after you've been such an inspirational force to millions of people in America, because of your shows, your teachings, your books, but still manage to be so humble and down to earth?
Jacques Pépin: Well, I'm not really humble. Down-to-earth, yes. I'm very pragmatic, maybe. I don't know, I look in the future and I think it was Sartre who was asked "What is your best book?" and responded "The one that I'm going to write." And in that context, you know, you finish a book, you look for the next thing. Of course I'm getting there in age, but my health is fine. I had a hip replacement last year and another the year before, but I had a bad accident in my 40s. So now I'm paying for it, but sure, as long as I can continue moving around, I'm going to keep cooking. As long as I'm hungry, I'm going to cook something.

· All Aspen Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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