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RestaurantI am Chris Santos, I've created 3 top-rated restaurants in NYC, I am a judge on Food Network's Chopped and I only have 3 days until I open my first restaurant in Vegas. Ask Me Anything!

May 12th 2016 by santoscooks • 13 Questions • 284 Points

I am the owner and Executive Chef of three wildly popular restaurants located on the lower east side in New York City," The Stanton Social", "Beauty and Essex" and "Vandal".

I am also known for my appearances on the popular Food Network series "Chopped", The Rachel Ray Show, The Today show and The CBS early show. I also appeared in the movie "Hitch", and worked as a consultant on several other films.

I am 3 days away from opening my first restaurant in Las Vegas, Beauty & Essex inside the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Proof: http://imgur.com/9TIdh4w

Thanks everyone for the questions, I have to get back to work now but the next time you are in Vegas, I encourage you to check out Beauty & Essex in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. For more info, visit www.beautyandessex.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/beautyandessexlv Twitter: www.twitter.com/beauty_essexlv Instagram: @beautyandessexlv Snapchat: BeautyVegas

Q:

Who is your favorite Chopped co-star? And tell us why it's Alex.

A:

I love this! Actually, Alex is my official work wife on set! We spend 12-14 long hours with each other everyday.....cracking each other up, bickering, making up and then starting all over again. I love her!


Q:

Hey Chef. It's a bit of an open secret that on Iron Chef, challengers are given a heads-up regarding the mystery ingredient. Is the same true on Chopped, do they get a few minutes to think before they have to go darting into the pantry?

A:

100% no. In fact, the judges don't even find out the ingredients until right before. Typically the judges get about 30 minutes to look at the basket and figure out if it is too complicated for the allotted time. Recently there was eel and artichoke in an early basket (20 min). You can't properly clean and prep eel and artichoke and still have time to make something in 20 min, so we swapped one of the ingredients out.

But the contestants get their baskets and we start filming, there isn't much time to think!


Q:

Is Amanda Freitag being held hostage by Food Network producers? Does she need me to call someone?

A:

I don't know but now I'm concerned, I'll text her and find out


Q:

What's the most disgusting thing you've eaten on chopped?

A:

Sea Urchin. Can't stand it.


Q:

Congrats on the new restaurants. I'm a huge fan. Do you have a hard time presenting your opinion of the food on Chopped in a constructive way? Has anything been SO bad, you don't want to say anything?

A:

It certainly can be challenging at times. Usually speaking the food is quite good, even if presentation suffers due to the clock running out. But yes occasionally there is something that just isnt successful and you always need to have a compassion when you are essentially breaking someone's heart in a way. Still I feel being direct, and truthful about what happened is the best route and remind the chef that they need to not let one dish , prepared in a really crazy environment, define who they are as a chef!


Q:

What was the best meal you ever ate?

A:

I don't know that I can really single out one meal, as I've spent the last 30 years of my life eating every day, but I recently had the opportunity to go to SE Asia for the first time, going down dark alleys looking for the very best street food I could find. I can't pin a specific meal, but those 3 weeks were the best 3 weeks of eating in my entire life.


Q:

What keeps your love for cooking alive? I absolutely love cooking for myself and others and have been told I should take some classes to try to turn it into a career, but feel I would end up resenting it when placed into a job environment where I have to do it all the time.

A:

YES! THIS!

Cooking at home and cooking in a restaurant is very different. At this point in my life I spend as much time fixing leaks, analyzing payroll, making sure that the music is not too loud, the lighting is just right, etc. Things they won't teach you in cooking school.

The thing that keeps me going is the team around me and the collaborative effort that goes into making our menu every day. The satisfaction one gets cooking a meal for someone and seeing them truly enjoy it is an internal feeling that you can't learn in any school, and if you really love doing it then you should do it for as many people as you can, either in your personal life or professionally.


Q:

If you had to eat fast food where would you go and what would you pick off the menu?

A:

In-N-Out, 2x4. No lettuce, I don't do greens on my burgers, just tomatoes.


Q:

Chef Santos, what was the strangest ingredient you've seen on chopped?

A:

Doesn't get much stranger than rocky mountain oysters, which are, of course, bull testicals. My biggest fear however is my hardcore extreme spider phobia, and I have nightmares of cooking in the chopped kitchen and finding tarantulas in there. After seeing spiders served in Cambodia recently, I'm acutely aware that this is a possibility.


Q:

When I used to watch Chopped it seemed like you all used the word "egregious" constantly. So much so I turned it into a drinking game. If I started watching the show again could I go back to getting drunk or has everyone wised up to the overuse of that word?

A:

Wow, that must be some drinking game, as the editors love to edit in the word egregious egregiously. Thinking how many shots you have had to take playing that game is getting me drunk right now.


Q:

Even though the NY restaurants have been successful, are you nervous for your first Vegas location?

A:

Nope. Every new restaurant opening brings a unique set of anxiety, but I feel really confident that Beauty & Essex is the perfect brand for the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the look and feel of the hotel and the restaurant are almost scarily well aligned.

The challenge now is that I can't be in every single one of my restaurants every day, which has been my life for the last 20 years. I expect to pick up a ton of frequent flyers miles though, so that's cool.


Q:

Hey Chris, who are some of your favorite metal bands, past and current?

A:

Slayer, Deftones, and of course Black Sabbath.


Q:

What are some (perhaps easy-ish) tips to elevate my cooking at home?

A:

Hot sauce. Hot sauce everywhere.