Interview: Ken Lyon Gets The 10

Categories: Chef Interviews
Ken Lyon
Recognize the name? Chef, caterer and restaurateur Ken Lyon is the force behind the Design District's Fratelli Lyon, catering company Lyon + Lyon, and the new Cape Cod Room in The Bath Club. He's served up three decades worth of food all over the eastern United States, but Lyon started his career as an apprentice chef at Cape Cod's Chillingsworth. In 1984, he moved to Manhattan, eventually working as executive chef for restaurateur Peter Glazier and eight years later he and his brother, Jeffrey, opened the self-service, European-style Lyon Freres et Compagnie café on Lincoln Road.

In 2008 he boldly opened Fratelli Lyon, offering eco-conscious regional Italian fare, and last month he unveiled The Cape Cod Room, a tribute to his roots. The New England-style fish and seafood house serves up piping hot pot pies and steaming stews, along with desserts like warm Indian pudding and Scottish shortbreads with chilled lemon curd. And he's still all about being green: Last week Ken created a special menu at CCR that focused on sustainable fisheries and wines for Slow Food Miami, and proceeds from the event benefited the group's School Gardens Project.

Good thing he's so talented, and obviously willing to prepare meals at home, too, because it seems he won't let his wife near their kitchen. Hmm. Wonder if he'd let her prepare a "honeymoon salad?" Read on:

New Times: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served?

Ken Lyon: I would be an oyster. Oysters clean the ocean, make beautiful pearls and are sustainable. At The Cape Cod Room, we serve them chilled on the half shell and cooked in our Grand Central's Oyster Pan Roast.

NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?

KL: Photographer Edward Weston. He's someone I admire and would have liked to have met. He's a vegetarian, so my cooking options would be limited, but a challenge I would have willingly accepted.

NT: What was your most embarrassing cooking-related moment?

KL: In one of my first jobs as chef, back in the '70s when I worked for C'est Si Bon, Julia Child came in to the restaurant. It was her and two other guests. As any chef would be, I was thrilled to have this opportunity. When their order was taken, the two guests selected their courses, while Julia took out an apple instead. She said she would not be eating.

NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?

KL: Tournée vegetables. I was never really good at it.

NT: What's your favorite food-/cooking-related joke?


Q. What is a 'honeymoon salad'? 
A: Lettuce alone. No dressing.

NT: What was your best or worst dining experience?

KL: My best was in a town outside of Lyon, eastern France, where I had my first 4-star dining experience. It was in 1978. It was sublime. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. The restaurant and chef was Alain Chapel. There we were, a group of Americans in this gorgeous countryside restaurant, hosted by a legendary chef. The food and drink were beyond words. 

NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?

KL: This may sound snooty, but nothing goes better with cooking than classical. I'm partial to Mahler, but really enjoy all periods of classical, from baroque to romantic to modern. I also listen to chamber music.

NT: What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen?

KL: My wife, Suzanne, has been relieved of all cooking duties. But she's a great baker. Makes the sweetest concoctions.

NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?

KL: I'm a bit of a candy freak. Also barbecue. Traditional barbecue. What you might find off the map, on a country road in an old Texas smokehouse.

NT: How would you complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that...?

KL: ...uses meat bases. If you can't make a stock, you should find another job.

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