Chef News

Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House, Part Two

Yesterday, Chef Bernie Kantak shared details of his culinary adventures and early artistic creations. Today, the conversation turns towards matters more serious, from witnessing a slaughter to ghosts in the machine.

First job: My grandmother on my mother's side ran a kitchen in Ohio that was a reception hall at a church. That was actually my first job. I was going to stay for a week and ended up staying a few months.

Meaty issues: My grandfather was a butcher. It really never creeped me out. I don't think I ever really put the face and the steak together.

The "other" white meat: We had the most amazing farmers' market that just went on for four blocks. It had everything under the sun -- wonderful tomatoes, produce, turtle.

I don't know where the turtle came from. They had turtle meat, and little pet ones.


What do you make in your kitchen now? Typically, I don't cook at home. It's just me and my two dogs. I do BBQ every once in a while. If I want some ribs, I'll put them in the smoker. I'm not a big kitchen gadget guy.

What about baking? I fake bake. Tracy Dempsey does all the desserts here; she's a super genius. I don't like to have to measure stuff.

Citizen Public House
No ghosts in here -- just some fine spirits.

Getting trashed: After Trader Vic's, what's now Citizen Public House was a nightclub. The building sat empty for three years, but they didn't take anything out when they left. Literally, nothing. All of the furniture was here. There was still garbage in here, bottles of beer in the corners. It was a lot of fun cleaning up.

Home away from home: I love the neighborhood. This building has quite a bit of character (more the interior than the exterior). I love the wooden beams. It feels like home to me.

Are there ghosts in the space? I haven't seen any. No tiki dolls have attacked me, or giant cocktails. But there is a ghost in my friend's uterus. She works here. She's pregnant and had a sonogram and there's this figure right at the bottom. It kind of looks like her dad, who passed away.

His dream after(life) party: I think more than anything I'd want my dad, my mother and my grandmother to come to dinner here. They've all passed.

Moving on: I thought about moving to Vegas, when they first started really expanding all of the restaurants. But I don't think Vegas is necessarily for me. I would be a nobody in Vegas.

So you'd rather be a big fish in a smaller pond? I don't know about a big fish. Maybe medium-sized.

If Food Network came calling... I wouldn't really want a show -- unless I could do something a little more like No Reservations where I could go around, eat and drink and they pay for it. I'd totally do that!

Check back tomorrow for a summery sea scallop recipe from Chef Bernie Kantak.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden