On the line: Chef Edward Forster
Current Title: Chef, Mike A at Hotel Lafayette
How many years behind the stove: Fourteen
Charged with opening yet another restaurant—this time in the newly reimagined Hotel Lafayette—Chef Mike Andrzejewski (Seabar, Cantina Loco) knew that he needed to bring big talent into the kitchen. Fortunately, he was aware of a young chef with Buffalo roots who’s making a name for himself in the larger culinary world.
During his time as a student at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), North Tonawanda native Edward Forester completed an externship under Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Vong’s in London. He then studied restaurant management at Niagara University. A job in Philadelphia arose, and he took it, working under esteemed chef Georges Perrier. From there, Forster went to Chicago, staging at chef Christian Delouvrier’s short-lived Brasserie Ruhlmann, then studying wine under sommelier Brian Duncan, and brushing up on all things fromage under an artisan cheesemonger. Returning to the kitchen, Forster landed a job as poissonnier (fish cook) in the kitchen of Chicago uber-chef Graham Elliott, who eventually promoted him to sous chef. When Andrzejewski first tasted Forster’s food, it was at Chicago’s Blackbird, where Forster had taken the sous chef position under chef de cuisine David Posey.
Asked to describe the cuisine he and Andrzejewski will offer at Mike A at Hotel Lafayette, Forster enthusiastically responds, “Whimsical food you could enjoy in jeans or a tuxedo. We want to challenge people’s palates and open their eyes. We want to take them on a familiar journey while introducing new concepts and flavors. Maybe they won’t understand why sesame and vanilla go so well with fluke and meyer lemon, but we want to approach the vortex, we want to push the envelope of food and flavor with reimagined classics.”
Prior to opening, between sourcing suppliers and shoehorning kitchen equipment into the unfinished kitchen, Forster managed to find a few spare moments to answer Spree’s questions.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you do?
Sail on a boat while eating soft cheeses and drinking vintage champagne.
What makes a good chef?
The desire to make something better everyday, a sharp eye, and curious palate.
Favorite classic dish:
Steak frites, and tartiflette (French gratin made of potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardon, and onion)
What trend or technique would you like explore further?
During the spring, I was wandering around and seeking out new foods. Spruce tips are sprouting, wild ramps, carrots, and asparagus are coming up. It’s really exciting to eat food straight from the ground, or to find something unique and be able to showcase that ingredient.
Restaurant you’re dying to try:
Chef Pascal Barbot’s L’astrance in Paris. It is such a tiny Michelin/Pellegrino-rated restaurant, with menus that are different for each table, not just changing daily. It’s a really exciting idea.
Your go-to food reference cookbook:
Michel Bras’s book, Essential Cuisine (Ici La Pr, March 2002) is timeless and simple. I also read anything by Herve This. He’s just a really inquisitive and smart dude that can change some perspectives on food for the reader.
Favorite after work beverage:
Pappy Van Winkle twenty-year bourbon when I’m feeling randy. Usually a cold PBR does the trick on a go-to level.
Best LP to cook by:
New Order’s Power, Corruption, and Lies gets plenty of airtime. Also Murder City Devils, and anything by Joy Division—on loop, and bordering on inappropriately loud.
Food no chef should love, but you do anyway:
It’s sad, but every time I used to come back to Buffalo, I would crave the Stinger Taco at Colossal Taco in Tonawanda. It’s shredded “steak” meat and chicken fingers in hot sauce with blue cheese and tomato in a soft flour tortilla.
What Buffalo’s food scene really needs:
A commitment to doing things on a higher level. In every city everywhere, I just see so much “meh.” If you’re going to make a turkey club, do it the best that you can. Brine and smoke the turkey, toast the bread evenly, make it nice. The idea of “good enough” needs to stop being the standard. If we could step up our game and make everything the best, most prideful way possible, I think there would be more memorable meals to be had in WNY.
The most exciting thing about Buffalo’s restaurant scene is:
The diversity. There’s so much here beyond chicken wings and beef on weck—two of my favorite things to eat anytime and anywhere— but Buffalo is really bringing it in terms of unique restaurants and markets. I love ethnic food and being able to have pho, pad see ew, bulgogi, chat masala, and homestyle Chinese is awesome. There are so many dining options available on every level that it makes it so easy to never have to eat “meh” food at a chain restaurant again.
Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree’s food editor.