Meet & Eat: Nick Kindelsperger, Editor of Serious Eats Chicago
Editor's Note: Over the past few months we've been introducing you to the writers here on Serious Eats Chicago. Today it's time for, well, me. This also means that I'm left to write an editor's note about the editor, which is obviously strange. So I'll keep this short and get started with the interview.
Name: Nick Kindelsperger
Occupation: Editor of Serious Eats Chicago
Favorite comfort food? That's tough, since I often search out dishes that provoke and awaken me. I do know that if I've been away from Chicago for a few days, I need something stupendously spicy. That said, if I've been away for more than I week, I crave a hot dog from Redhot Ranch.
Guilty pleasures? I don't want to brag, but when it comes to desserts, I am a model of self control. All I need is one bite of ice cream or one square of chocolate. But on Easter I feast on mounds of jelly beans until my belly aches. I don't discriminate, either; it doesn't matter if they are the beautiful little Jelly Bellys or the enormous and misshapen off-brand versions.
Describe your perfect meal. Well, that all depends, doesn't it? As you may have known, I have a strange infatuation with eating while standing, and nothing beats walking around Mexico City snacking on al pastor tacos (which explains the picture above). But I also genuinely love holiday meals with my family, especially now that we've settled into a tradition of serving fried chicken dinner for Christmas. Sure, the entire house smells like frying oil for an hour or so, but it's totally worth it.
What food won't you eat? Basically, if I trust that the restaurant, I'll eat anything. I do have an inexplicable aversion to mac and cheese.
What would you like to try but haven't yet? Landlocked as we are here in Chicago, there are numerous kinds of seafood that I'd love to get my hands on but can't.
Favorite food person? It's hard to go wrong with Rick Bayless. My copy of Mexican Everyday is covered in stains, pages are falling out, and the cover is kind of warped because it fell in the sink one time. I think that's a good indication of how often I use that cookbook. Authentic Mexican doesn't look any better.
When did you first realize you were a serious eater? There are probably a number of stories that foretell a later obsession, but mostly it was one big long slide into this career. I will say that the first slice I ever had from Patsy's in East Harlem back in 2006 is as close as I got to that eureka moment. Pizza did not taste like that where I grew up.
What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions? They'll mostly suffer through any ill-advised cooking project as long as I remember to do the dishes afterwards.
Favorite food sites or blogs? I have opinions. First, I love the unwieldy and overstuffed message boards, where you can find a host of obsessed personalities doing battle over very specific topics. You have to exert real effort to find any useful information, but when you do it feels like a secret between people as crazed as you. eGullet is great for cooking, while Chicago's LTHForum is my favorite for restaurants around Chicago. Second, I also have a strange infatuation with the hastily thrown together Blogger sites that speak more to the obsessive nature of the writer than to any play for audience appeal. In Chicago, I love to check up with Smokin' Chokin' and Chowing with the King. And after endless debate about restaurants, there is something strangely wonderful about the lack of text on Greasefreak, which is just a collection of photos of greasy food in poorly lit scenarios with simple star ratings. The lack of pretense is inspiring.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? Without question, dinner. Honestly, I like a mix of eating out and eating in. Too much of either is exhausting. (It's the whole problem of washing dishes versus exerting effort and leaving apartment.)
Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make? Up until six months ago, sometimes it felt like I did nothing but cook. I started writing Dinner Tonight back in 2007, and I think over the years I've cooked approximately 750 different dishes. That's a lot! Sadly, the result of all this is that I hardly ever get to cook the same thing twice, so I've never gotten the chance to master any one thing. I feel completely naked without a recipe in front of me. If there were Top Chef: Serious Eats Edition, I'd get sent home in the first round.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? I think I'm contractually obligated to be one of those people with the recommendations. But I'm quick to ask people I trust about where they've eaten lately. I do read Time Out Chicago, Grub Street Chicago, Eater Chicago, and the 312 Dining Diva often to see what new places are coming soon.
Favorite cookbook authors? Along with Bayless and all his cookbooks, I also completely trust any Barbara Kafka recipe. My wife and I use Vegetable Love constantly, and Roasting: A Simple Art taught me to embrace high heat—smoke detector be damned.