At The Table With: Who You’ll Meet

Italian food maven Lidia Bastianich is originally from...Croatia?

If you had the chance to sit at the table with a favorite chef, who would you choose, and what would you ask?

Though it would be a tough choice for a food person like me, I’d go with a slightly off-the-beaten-path pick:  Johnny Monis of the charming 38-seat Komi in Washington D.C., probably my favorite restaurant on the planet.  The young chef may not be a bona-fide superstar just yet, but he was nominated for the James Beard Rising Star Chef award this year and the President and First Lady recently spent their now-famous “date night” at Komi so I think he’ll get there.

I’d ask Monis what inspires him to stay focused on one tiny restaurant, even as his publicity grows exponentially.  I’d definitely want to know how he (and all chefs, for that matter) maintains some semblance of a personal life with the crazy hours that he works.  I’d try to get inside his head and tap into the thought process behind his ethereal dishes.  And yes, I’d ask how he kept his nerves in check while cooking for the Obamas with Secret Service agents teeming the building.

At The Table With on Cooking Channel is the next best thing to chatting with your culinary idols.  It’s your chance to get to know acclaimed chefs beyond their recipes and restaurants; in each episode, a different superstar chef gets personal.

You’ll learn that Lidia Bastianich, queen of Italian food, was actually born in Croatia.  Her family fled the dictatorship there and emigrated to Italy when she was 10.

As a college student, uber-perfectionist Charlie Trotter thought he wanted to go into politics—and eventually he did, in a way, by taking an ethical stance against foie gras.

Long before she was an Iron Chef, Cat Cora was “discovered” by legendary chef Jacques Pepin, who wrote to the James Beard House after tasting young Cat’s food.

Meet them all and more fascinating chef personalities (Rick Bayless, Jacques Torres, Susur Lee…) At The Table With, on Cooking Channel beginning June 1st.  And as for Johnny Monis…perhaps we’ll see him with other the big names on a future season.

Which chef would you want to sit at the table with the most?