Dale Talde on Why His Food Is "Proudly Inauthentic"
Dale Talde’s hip Brooklyn eatery took home the Taste of Groupon Award for Best Service, thanks in part to nominators who raved about its welcoming staff. But it could have just as easily won the award for Best Place to Eat Korean Fried Chicken and Talk About McDonald’s with a Top Chef alum, you know, if that had been a category.
With the success of Talde (the restaurant), Talde (the chef) has become famous for his fun, sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach to Asian-fusion cuisine, which often shuns authenticity in favor of stuff that just tastes good.
We talked to Dale about his unique cuisine and what “authentic” cooking means to him. Read on for some of the highlights:
What’s so great about authenticity anyway?
Talde says the idea to name his cookbook Proudly Inauthentic was, in part, “my response to everyone preaching constantly about authenticity.” Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and '90s, he was just as inspired by American fast food as he was by his mother’s traditional Filipino cooking. That much is clear from his book’s recipe index, which ranges from pretzel-and-pork dumplings (a favorite at his restaurant) to chicken nuggets inspired by the ones typically served beneath golden arches.
“To me, what I do is ... an accurate depiction of who I am, which is a mix of different cultures. An authentic experience is based off of personal experience and what [that] means to you.”
Cooking up controversy
Talde’s inauthentic approach is particularly refreshing given the wave of recent criticism aimed at chefs (such as Rick Bayless) who have become famous for cooking another culture’s cuisine. “I definitely see both sides of the coin,” he said.
Still, he admits all the to-do about authenticity might convince some chefs not to branch out to other styles of cooking. “I have a friend who makes the most authentic northern Thai food right here in NYC, and my favorite sushi chef is a white kid from Iowa! I have plenty of friends who are making the illest food but aren't getting any press or shine for it just due to the ‘inauthentic’ label.”
Above: halo-halo topped with Cap'n Crunch from Talde
Why home chefs should embrace "inauthentic" cooking
First and foremost, “don't be afraid to cheat,” Talde advised home cooks. “If you're flipping through my book and you want to make our roast-chicken dinner ramen, and you wanna pick up a cooked chicken from the store, then more power to you!”
Many of his recipes are also great for American cooks who might not be familiar with traditional Asian ingredients. “My favorite dish at the restaurant is our pad thai because it’s true to who I am and what we do at the restaurant. We use traditional American ingredients and give it an American spin,” he said of the dish, which features bacon and peanuts in addition to crispy oysters.
Above: Korean fried chicken with pickled plums from Talde
But leave some jobs to the pros
Talde’s cooking style might feel freeing and easy, but there was one job that proved too trying for his signature non-stuffy approach: his wedding. What was it like to serve as groom and caterer at the same event?
“It was pure horror. I would never do it again, and I would definitely never suggest it to anybody.”