Top Chef's Stefan Richter: Chef Chat Part 1

Stefan Richter taking a stroll in Loring Park
Stefan Richter taking a stroll in Loring Park
Joy Summers

It's disconcerting to be sipping an iced coffee at Dunn Bros and hear a familiar voice, though you've never met the person, call out your name. In this case, the voice belongs to celebrity chef Stefan Richter, best known from Bravo TV's Top Chef series (seasons 5 and 10). 

In town to promote his partnership with  Sea Cuisine®, he took time out of his busy schedule to discuss frozen fish, the cult of celebrity, and the Minnesota dream of a buying a little log cabin near the Canadian border.

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The Hot Dish:

What smells remind you of home?

Stefan Richter: Fish - fish soup - potatoes, dill... campfire, smoked fish. In Finland I have a wood-fire jacuzzi. When I got off the plane at the [MSP] airport I smelled campfire and I just [exhales] ah, home.

I love Minnesota. It reminds me of Finland. Do you know how cheap it is to get a log cabin near Canada? 

The Hot Dish: We have a lot of Finnish descendants who live up that way.
Stefan Richter: I miss Finland. I miss my mom. I love to get home. In L.A. [where he lives] everybody is so stressed. In Finland I'm content. I have all my fishing stuff locked up. No one can touch it. It's just mine. When I get there, I just unlock the box and go out and fish and fish.

The Hot Dish: What was the first dish you learned how to cook?
Stefan Richter: I should get you a picture! My mom just took a picture of it: fish soup. My mom is a chef and there were always good food -- healthy, good food options. A lot of fish. When we moved to Germany, it was a lot of trout, salmon, cod.

I love to cook fish -- that's part of it, enjoying to cook. That's why I partnered with Sea Cuisine®. What do chefs eat? You cook for 13 hours a day, party pants and go home and eat McDonald's -- buy a bunch of fast food.

Try the potato-crusted cod. Defrost, cook it at 375 for 13 minutes and it's yummy. It's easy and it tastes good.

The Hot Dish: That was an amazing segue. You're good.
Stefan Richter: Was it? Try it. It's really good.

The Hot Dish: I saw on Twitter that you were at the Local last night. Did you have the opportunity to eat at any other area restaurants?
Stefan Richter: Yes, Seven, I had the fish! [laughs] And I had the chicken wings, those were yummy.

The Hot Dish: You began cooking at 13. Was there ever anything else that you thought you might grow up to do?
Stefan Richter: In Europe you do one occupation and you do it right. In America everybody is always switching around doing different jobs. 

I have eight places now, in L.A. and in Finland. I travel all the time. It's a lot of work.  When I was a kid, my father said, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." If I had no restaurant in Finland, how often would I go home? It's a reason to go home. It's a reason to go fishing. It's a reason to cook.

It's hard to cook at home. I'm used to having a dishwasher! At home there's all these pots and pans and mess everywhere. At home I'm not going to pull my blender and all that crap out.

How great would it be to just get a bunch of chefs up at a log cabin in northern Minnesota and have everyone cook?

The Hot Dish: There is a weekend coming up at Madden's Resort. It's one of those big, old-fashioned resorts, surrounded by woods, on the lake. A whole pile of chefs will be there. You should come back.
Stefan Richter: I want to come!

The Hot Dish: You'll just have to come back. 

Tomorrow: more from our conversation with Richter where we discuss Top Chef, asshole chefs, and a bromance for the ages.

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