In the Kitchen with Alex Stupak

The Empellon Push Project: Part Two

Chefs Alex Stupak and Jordan Kahn

I’m not usually holding the camera at these kinds of things.

I’m usually assessing the energy coming at me from moving bodies. I’m watching the person sitting in front of me, talking; where are they looking, what are their fingers doing, how are they breathing? On good days I match my energy with theirs. My voice stays at around the same tone, I laugh moments after they do, my vocabulary blends with theirs.

That dance I know.

But now, with one camera in my fingers and another dangling from my hip, I’m staying silent and moving minimally. I’m letting the ‘click-click-click’ of the camera do my talking.

I have worked with Chef Alex Stupak before. His food, of course, is breathtaking, and he hasn’t received the respect of his peers and adoration of eaters for nothing. But, being someone who holds onto words, I’m most engrossed in the way he speaks. His words are specific. His opinions are his own and the result of contemplation and discourse. He speaks with a surety that rings with understated confidence, so much to the point that you know you will both equally believe in a contradictory statement he might five breaths from now.

But at this dinner – the second in a series where he brings a guest chef into his New York kitchen to push the limits of what they can create and what we can perceive food can be – Stupak is almost silent, save for the clipped orders directed at various cooks and servers. He is not unfriendly, by any means. But he is focused.

So my own focus shifts from him to plates as they form around me with more precision and patience than I would have expected after walking through the full, rowdy dining room to the kitchen. No one seems “in the weeds” or “in the shits” here. I have not even introduced myself to visiting chef Kahn, but watching him is a similar lesson in ownership, craftsmanship and precision. This is a dance Stupak and Kahn know how to do well.

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