Can you trust a skinny chef? You definitely can when it comes to Cedric Tovar! As the Executive Chef of Peacock Alley, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Cedric brings a blend of various cultures and ideas to the table. This ever-energetic chef has never failed to win rave acclaim from his clientele.
One of my most popular Asian dishes is “Wild Pepper Pork”. I added pepper for its fragrance.
ASIANCE: What bonds you to the world of cooking? How has your Alsatian and Haitian descent influenced your cooking career?
Cedric: My cultural heritage! I was born and raised in France so I have always had a French touch in my cooking styles. When I was small, we usually had big family parties with at least twenty to thirty family members at one time. By the age of 6, I was already helping my mom and grand mom in the kitchen. Also, since my father lived in Haiti, I was introduced to Haiti’s exotic cuisine at a very young age. I spent a lot of time learning about the cuisine with my father’s maids and cooks. However, I never thought I’d be a chef then.
ASIANCE: If you were not a chef, what would you rather be?
Cedric: I’d either be a surgeon or an architect. I like working in places that demand a lot of creativity.
ASIANCE: What interests you in Asian cuisine? What is your most popular Asian dish?
Cedric: The variety of Asian ingredients has always intrigued me. This absolutely amazing cuisine is all about freshness that tickles your tongue. There’s a lot of motivation and energy in the Asian culture and I have always wanted to know more about Asian cuisine. One of my most popular Asian dishes is “Wild Pepper Pork”. I added pepper for its fragrance.
ASIANCE: How did you get an apprenticeship under two- star Michelin Jean Paul Duquesnoy?
Cedric: In France, I had to spend 3 weeks working at a restaurant and 1 week at school. When you go to a culinary school in France, you need to apply for an apprenticeship in a restaurant as well. If you are motivated and have good energy, you can get an apprenticeship under great chefs, but it’s a lot of work. I used to work 12 to 14 hrs a day.
ASIANCE: You have served as a chef for many great personalities. What is it like to be the private chef for the French Prime Minister and is it different from your other cooking experiences?
Cedric: Being a private chef of the French Prime Minister was like working at any other restaurant for me. I created daily seasonal menus for the Prime Minister, his assistant and the Head of the State. However, itwas a lot of fun since we had the freedom to create innovative dishes. The best part was the easy access in receiving expensive ingredients.
ASIANCE: You are known for your creative recipes that blend culture and ideas. What inspires you to create them?
Cedric: I’d like to call my cuisine “Global Cuisine” since I use ingredients from all over the world. My primary influence is my origin. I also love traveling which is always a learning experience, be it for culture or for cuisine. I am also inspired by different products. It all starts when I see, smell, and taste something new. A bunch of ideas come to my head and I go around the kitchen to find another product to pair it with. I try it one time and usually, it works very well.
ASIANCE: Can you tell us about your latest buzz as the NAC chef tour guide in November?
Cedric: This is a “13 day tour” to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Bangkok for people with special interest in Asian cuisine. My role is being an information source for those traveling with me and telling them what they should look for. It will be more interesting for Americans to go with a chef with an American eye rather than with a local chef. I had once taken the ten best students of Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to a culinary tour to Vietnam which was a great experience. I am excited to be the leading chef for the NAC Chefs tour.
ASIANCE: What can one expect on a normal day of the tour?
Cedric: Everyday will be very different. We will have visits to marketplaces, cooking demos, meetings with chefs, interesting meals at local restaurants and more.
ASIANCE: We’ve heard that you are a very lively and passionate person and you hardly sleep! What drives you?
Cedric: My mission in life is to have a good time. So, you will usually find me either feasting or traveling. I have a lot of energy in me. I love to explore and discover new things. When the day is done, I like to meet friends and other people which keeps me up till late everyday. If I go to bed early, it means I am frustrated!
What has been your most memorable culinary experience? Cedric: Once I had to fly to Tokyo to cook for an anniversary party for a big local movie production company. I made a sample dish and directed more than twenty chefs to serve about 3000 guests. In France, I usually served only about forty people, so this was a surreal experience for me.
ASIANCE: How’s your current job? And what’s next for you?
Cedric: There are a lot of rules and policies at Hilton so it’s different, nevertheless it’s enjoyable. I get to meet a lot of people there. I’d ultimately like to open my own place. Also, I have 2 different ideas for a cookbook, so I look forward to creating a cookbook soon.
** What do you recommend for people who want to integrate Asian ingredients to their diet?
Don’t be afraid of trying Asian ingredients but make sure you use only one product at a time. You need to be aware of how two products work together in order to get the right taste.
** Favorite Restaurants
Bao 111, NYC, Cookshop, NYC, Blue Hill at Stone Barns
** Favorite Grocery Store
Mitsuwa Marketplace 595 River Road Edgewater, NJ 07020 201-941-9113
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