Meet D.C. Chef Spike Mendelsohn
Spike Mendelsohn is the chef and owner of Good Stuff Eatery, Béarnaise and We, The Pizza in Washington D.C. Mendelsohn's newest restaurant, Béarnaise, opened in Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood in the summer of 2013. Chef Spike, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, trained under icons such as Gerard Boyer in Reims, France; Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Bouchon in Napa Valley, California; and Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque and Drew Neiporent's Mai House in New York City. At Béarnaise, Mendelsohn returns to his roots of classical French cuisine with a nod to the quintessentially French steak frites. Chef Spike debuted on television as a contestant of Bravo's hit series Top Chef Chicago. He's also appeared on numerous other shows, including Bravo's Life After Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars, Food Network's Iron Chef America and Spike TV's Bar Rescue.
We ask Chef Spike about his work and travels.
What's your favorite food destination?
Vietnam. I've spent a lot of my time traveling and cooking in Vietnam. The food is always French, vibrant and delicious. The street food is among the best in the world.
Where and what was the best meal you've ever eaten?
La Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon. Everything on the menu at the Sugar Shack is epic and playful.
Where is one place that's specifically influenced your cooking and how?
France. I spent a year cooking for Chef Gérard Boyer in Reims at Les Crayères. The classic training gave me structure and an appreciation for French cuisine. It heavily motivated me to open up my new French bistro Béarnaise in Washington, D.C.
Do you have a favorite hotel?
Hotel Le St-James, Montreal
What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
I cooked, and reluctantly ate, a rice paddy rat in Vietnam. It is traditional, but not my kind of thing.
What's the one thing people need to experience in your city?
D.C. is full of amazing markets. Spending an afternoon strolling through Eastern Market is a must for anyone in D.C. It is full of great local finds.
What do you never leave home without?
I never leave home without my passport and green card. Unfortunately, I have forgotten those before and I have vowed to never experience that headache again.
What's your go-to drink?
Red Stripe beer.
What's the most unexpected place you've traveled to and how did you wind up there?
I spent some time in Hong Kong. It was due to an unexpected layover. Thirty-six hours there gave me a tiny taste of what Hong Kong has to offer. I am excited to return.
Where's the coolest place you've served a meal?
I had a shockingly delicious meal on a train in the Swiss Alps. You never know where you might find great food and service.
What's your best "lost in translation" where things went horribly or comically awry?
Every conversation with my father turns into a "lost in translation" scenario.
What's the most indulgent thing you've ever treated yourself to while traveling?
I am a spa junkie. I'm more than happy to find a spa, escape and indulge. Restaurants are stressful, so having time to unwind is a gift.
What are you picky about when traveling?
I'm picky about my hotels. I'll splurge on the right place to stay.
What would we be surprised to find in your suitcase?
A knife -- it is an occupational habit. Sometimes TSA is surprised, too.
What's left on your travel bucket list?
My big dream trip is the Galapagos. I'd love to go on the National Geographic expedition tour and see the natural wildlife and beauty.