Home cooks and hallowed chefs share their secrets for cast-iron cooking.
He might now live in the Lonestar State, but John Tesar will always be a New Yorker at heart. With an ever-so-slight accent, the 65-year-old Manhattan-born chef suffers no fools—he’s a firebrand, an iconoclast, the self-destructive Jimmy Sears in Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and once dubbed the “most hated chef in Dallas,” all with an undeniably expert eye for a damn good steakhouse. So much so that he just received his first Michelin star. One bite of his dry-aged strip and you’ll understand why.
Jean-Paul Bourgeois’ cooking is the best of both worlds. One minute, the classically trained chef is sharing a recipe for cacio e pepe from his days with Danny Meyer’s revered Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, and the next, he’s showing off his downhome Louisiana roots—from crawfish etouffee to wild-game gumbo—as seen on his popular Duck Camp Dinners series from MeatEater. Consider his culinary wisdom as universal, too.
Like many chefs across the country following the COVID-19 pandemic, Spike Gjerde is in the midst of a reinvention. There was a moment when he thought he might throw in the toque for good, as his A Rake’s Progress became a casualty at The Line Hotel in Washington, D.C., and his flagship Woodberry Kitchen pivoted with the times. But now all of that has changed, as he readies to open “a magical little jewel box” with Woodberry Tavern.
D.C. chef Jeremiah Langhorne is on a quest to define Mid-Atlantic cuisine.
By all odds, you could say that Jeremiah Langhorne was destined for this moment. Having just reopened his Michelin-starred The Dabney in Washington, D.C., the McCrady’s, Noma, and French Laundry alum is poised to be one of the next great culinary rock stars, one who is carving out newfound recognition for a regional foodway almost lost to history and deeply rooted in its diverse terroir. “When asked what [the restaurant] would be like,” he says, “my best response has always been, ‘I’ll show you.’”
The first time we met Evan Tate, he wasn’t standing over cast iron but a massive stainless steel stock pot, filled with 60 pounds of pork, at least one bag of oranges, and a cornucopia of seasonings and spices. It was a hot summer day in Lockhart Texas, and before a live-fire grill with a wide straw cowboy hat, a thick dark mustache, and a bottle of Asian hot sauce labeled with a piece of painter’s tape that read “not just sriracha,” we knew this third-generation cattle rancher was our kind of people.
At 28 years old, Ivan Guillen is an old soul—a toro antiguo, as he puts it—and it comes across in the art that is his cooking. It was a romance born in his native Mexico, that then lured him to Los Angeles, and eventually into the vast western wilderness of Mosca, Colorado, where he is now the executive chef at the Zapata Ranch of the conservation-minded Ranchlands. When not hogtied by local drought, his food sings over an open flame. “I think of the old ways of doing it,” says Guillen. “I always say that it’s a primitive thing.”
North Carolina chef Katie Button shares the secret of pan-seared scallops.
D.C. chef Opie Crooks puts cast iron to work in a restaurant kitchen.
“We use cast iron everywhere,” says chef Opie Crooks of No Goodbyes in Washington, D.C.—from the open hearth to a French top range to gas burners to the oven to induction. “My advice to home cooks is don’t’ be so precious with it. Use it all the time. Use it for everything. It’s a tool, and it’s meant to be used that way.”
Virginia chef Travis Milton shares the wonders of Appalachian cooking.
When Elliott Moss left his hometown at the age of 20, he made one simple declaration: “I’m never eating rice again.” The Buxton Hall Barbecue chef had grown up on the eastern edges of South Carolina, much of which was once riddled with rice plantations, with the grain irrevocably rooted into the local cuisine today. And with it came many iterations of one-pot Southern staples.
Wade Truong didn’t grow up cooking wild game. From a young age, the Virginia native worked at his parents Saigon Café in Harrisonburg, then climbed the ranks to become executive chef at the popular Kybecca in Fredericksburg. But it wasn’t in these restaurants that he learned how to smoke turkey, sous vide duck, or roast venison—the kind of cuisine he’s become known for today.
For North Carolina chef-turned-farmer Jamie Swofford, there are more than four seasons in a year. Thirteen times more, to be exact, with the Piedmont native abiding by the ethos that every week—52 in total—brings a new peak for local produce, and with it, an opportunity to savor that fleeting moment’s sense of place. Particularly when roasted in a cast-iron pan.