Bill Telepan on Home Cooking and Restaurant Letter Grades: Interview Part 2


Yesterday we spoke with Telepan chef Bill Telepan about Chefs Make Change, a new coalition to help reform school lunches. Today we return to restaurant Bill as he tells us what it’s like helming the kitchen.

Would you say that your culinary point of view has changed over the years?

No, the feel of it hasn’t. What’s happened over the last 15 years is my discovering new products and new technologies and seeing whether they work. Or testing new things that I wouldn’t try before. I don’t do Asian or any specific cuisine, but it’s a honed point of view.

Have you thought about opening other restaurants or expanding the Telepan brand?

We’ve thought about it and had opportunities come up and we’re still looking at it. I like my life now, but we have good people working with us.

So what kinds of things do you cook at home?

It depends. We have a 10-year-old, so something like a quick pasta with broccoli and beans. I do a good chicken fried rice. I’m about to embark on a white-bean-and-potato soup, but I’m doing it in a Crock-Pot. We had burrito day and I made them with yellow rice and beans. We change it up. I cook on every other Sunday, and on the others we go out.


Celeste, between 84th and 85th on Amsterdam. I go there as much as I can. And Café Luxembourg. That’s pretty much it; otherwise we have our Chinese takeout.

There’s a lot of controversy right now about the restaurant grading system. How do you feel about it?

They need to be consistent. They need a checklist. I discover new things that are against the rules every time. You’ll be like, “Really???” I’ve been cooking in New York City for 20 years. I was here when they never came, and now it’s like every six weeks. They really need to come up with a checklist. Certain things that are structural are worth points and they shouldn’t be put against you. … Someone with a penlight discovering a drop of water from a drain [shouldn’t be the focus]. When people on the street consider the DOH ratings, they’re thinking, Is [the food] going to make me sick or not? That’s what it should be about. It shouldn’t be about looking in the coat check.