Chef's Spotlight: CHEF CHARLES of Vis a Vis in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
Originally hailing from Sri Lanka, Chef Charles has grown up and lived within many cultures and traditions including Ethiopia, Nigeria, England, Mexico and the United States and his global influences continue to inspire him. He loves to merge cooking techniques and elements from all over the world to create interesting, synergistic, and flavorful dishes. As a culinary expert, he is known for creating his own unique brand of cuisine with an emphasis on innovation while incorporating complex layers of flavors and textures to each dish. Chef Charles' special blend of cuisine is created with influences from French, Italian, American, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Mediterranean along with his roots in South Asian cooking.
We had the opportunity to interview Chef Charles about his career and Vis à Vis in Brooklyn
1. What was your earliest interest in cooking?
Cooking with my grandmothers and with my mum is part of my earliest childhood memories. At home, as a five year old, I would cook with my mum and pretty much take over the kitchen. I would plan out family dinners, and when we visited my grandparents the most exciting thing for me was to run straight to the kitchen and watch and help with the cooking. My Grandparents lived in big traditional homes on the country side of Sri Lanka and food played a big part of the days' activity - there was always such variety and abundance of food and always something new to learn and try. My grandparent's kitchen was always bustling with activity, and from an early age it was always my favorite place to be. While all my cousins played Cricket outside I would help my Grandmother and the other older ladies in the kitchen with the cooking.
2. Who were some of your career mentors?
I love Chefs who take culinary risks, experiment, and think out of the box. I believe that especially Executive Chefs as culinary artists should not have stick to culinary rules when creating truly magical and unique dishes.
I admire Heston Blumenthal for these reasons and Anita Lo (who I was lucky enough to learn from) for the fact that she stays true and close to her roots and incorporates East Asian flavors seamlessly into her French inspired menus. But, my biggest culinary infulencer is my mother. From the time I was a little kid I saw her effortlessly throw hundreds of parties, creating some of the most amazing dishes I've ever had. She never followed any recipes and just cooked through instinct with a lot of love and it's something I'm become very good at as well.
3. What culinary styles have influenced your career?
My parents were traveling professionals and I was lucky enough to grow up in many fascinating countries all around the world that covered Asia, Africa and Europe. So I was directly exposed to a true global cuisine from a young age. Today, I consider myself to be a Global Contemporary Chef with culinary techniques rooted in French cuisine. Since I'm originally from Sri Lanka I am naturally drawn towards South Asian flavors and I think some of my best work stems from those - but I truly do embrace the diversity of all the global flavors and enjoy continuing to learn and work with herbs, spices & cooking tecniques from all over the world.
4. What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef? I love to experiment with flavors and break rules - I think thats why I chose to take part in all of the "Food Experiment Competitions" that were sponsored by the Brooklyn Brewery around the country. I won every single one that I took part in, and won the National Finals. My most distinguishing ability is my ability to work with bold flavors and optimize the flavors of a dish, while still creating a great sense of balance.
5. What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meals are always the most simple and are usually packed with a lot of flavor and spice. I love foods from all over the world and I love bold flavors - but even though my food is complex with many levels of flavors and textures, when I'm not working and out having a meal, I tend to go for simple foods like Pasta and Meatballs or a Spicy Curry and Steamed Rice.
6. Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Vis à Vis defines modern, upscale dining. The restaurant and lounge offers Global Contemporary Cuisine rooted in French techniques in the bustling Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn. Combining neighborhood hospitality and an elegant atmosphere, Vis à Vis sets the new standard for high-energy dining, where patrons can enjoy a luxurious meal and stay after hours to enjoy the lounge, which offers specialty cocktails, beers on tap, an extensive wine list and a line-up of world-famous DJ's.
The menu includes innovative culinary delights including: Bone Marrow Poppers in Puff Pastry & Bordelaise; Flaming Foie Gras with Caramalized Apples, Cranberry Crumble and Calvados on a Hot Himalian Pink Salt Stone, Tempura Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with a secret blend of Cheese, Figs & Mint; Short Rib Terrine with Baby Kale, Golden Apple Turnip Puree, and much, much more!
A wonderful venue for events, Vis à Vis offers a sleek lounge, along with a fine-dining room perfect for more formal occasions. As the premier destination for innovative, contemporary dining in a convivial eatery, Vis à Vis is a place where patrons can enjoy impeccable cuisine, delicious drinks and a lively atmosphere all at once.
Vis à Vis is located at 3100 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. Visit their web site at www.VisaVisNY.com or call them at (718) 333-0003. They are open daily from 12pm to 12am. You can follow Vis à Vis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/visavisrestaurant.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chef Charles