Last month, Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow reached a new height in the Bay Area's food landscape when Michael Bauer gave the Napa resort restaurant a rare four-star review. He's proved to be one of the most untouchable talents in the region, earning two Michelin stars for Meadowood last year having only been there a short time, and previously he brought Chez TJ the Michelin deuce as well. We spoke to Chef Kostow about how he handles the pressure that comes with so many accolades, and what he thinks of the recent drama down in Mountain View.
Congratulations on getting four stars from the Chron. Between this and the Michelin stars, does this affect how you operate in any way? Do you feel like accolades like this add to the pressure on a kitchen, or is it all just gravy, so to speak?
There is no gravy. The moment you begin to believe you’ve arrived is the moment that you stagnate. The accolades certainly increase the pressure because the expectations of the diners increase that much more.
The reality though, is we push ourselves harder than anyone else will. We want that pressure. We want to be under the microscope. We want to have seemingly unrealistic expectations and then exceed them.
Who's been the greatest influence on your cooking?
The greatest influence on my cooking is the emotive responses to the things I have seen and eaten. Food memories are the greatest single source of inspiration and, more often than not, serve as our starting point.
At Meadowood we're obviously influenced by the local and seasonal offerings of Napa, and by a distinctly modern and fluid style. I can’t say we look to specific chefs as guiding lights, but rather we examine the entire canon of food types and styles: We figure out first what we want to say and then find the applicable technique to say it.
What do you think about the recent drama at your former restaurant?
I can’t speak to the present situation at Chez TJ other than to say that Michelin stars are the result of one's persistence, diligence, and respect they can't be a motivating factor in and of themselves.
Where in the world do wish you could go right now to eat?
I want to go to Japan. I just did a dinner with Shin Takagi and cooked last weekend for Yoshi Takazawa. I want to go and see it all.