Originally from Lafayette, LA Chef Kevin Tien began working in the corporate world but a career change charged by a passion for food and service placed him on a culinary path in 2009. After working with various restaurants in Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, DC, Kevin had an opportunity to open Himitsu in the neighborhood of Petworth in DC. He is currently the Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Himitsu. Since opening in 2016, Himitsu and Kevin have garnered national attention and accolades from all corners of the US.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I always knew I really liked food and cooking ever since I was a kid. I found a cookbook in a home my family moved in to and was obsessed with it as a kid. I used to pick a recipe out of that cookbook every week and make it.
What is your favorite food memory?
My favorite food memory was being in the kitchen with my mom and grandma as a kid and making steamed bao buns stuffed with ground pork, a boiled egg, and Chinese sausage. I was always in charge of cutting the paper to put on the bottom of the bun before we steamed it and mixing the ground pork mixture.
When were you trained and how difficult was your training?
I received all of my training from various restaurants in Louisiana, Texas, and DC. I never went to culinary school and received all of my knowledge from work experience and from work colleagues.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I receive most of my inspiration from collaborating with friends in the industry and dining out a lot, and I mean dining out a lot.
What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
The most essential item in my kitchen is my moleskin notebook. I take notes on everything every day, it contains recipes, ideas, kitchen systems, and daily notes on what we can do to improve upon what we are already doing.
What advice would you give to an inspiring chef?
To be humble and work as hard as you can to be the best, but at the same time to remember you are never the best. Learn from others, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a recipe or a technique but even the way someone organizes themselves.
What was your funniest kitchen accident?
I once spilled 12 quarts of blueberry juice on myself and ended up looking like a smurf for a whole day.
Who in the food world do you most admire?
I admire Jose Andres the most. Not only is he an amazing chef, but he is tirelessly working on changing food politics and using the power of food to change the world and help others.
What is your favorite food to cook with?
I love working with seafood.
What food do you think is the most challenging to cook with?
For myself, vegetables are the hardest to work with. I always want to make a dish that uses that product in the best way possible to highlight the vegetable itself, but I always tend to over-complicate things.
What do you like to eat when you are home?
When at home, I always like to keep it simple and just eat toast and eggs.
What do you love most about your job?
I love seeing the guests enjoy their time here at the restaurant. To see everyone having a good time and enjoying themselves, there is nothing more satisfying.
What would your last meal be if you were on death row?
For my last meal, I would actually request fast food from all my favorite places: spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A; big mac and fries from McDonald’s; onion rings from Burger King; chicken tender combo with extra texas toast from Raising Canes; supreme chalupa from Taco Bell.