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Chef Dale Talde On His New Restaurant, His New Mullet and Going to Therapy

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The Park Slope, Asian fusion restaurant, Talde, has been packed since it opened in January, largely due to the huge fan base of chef Dale Talde, 33, a contender on Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars. He and his partners, David Massoni and John Bush, are shooting for a late-spring opening for their new place nearby in what used to be Aunt Suzie's. He won't divulge the name of it yet but the super-casual concept has inspired him to start growing a mullet.

Please explain the mullet thing to me.
Yes, I am trying to grow one (he sounds reluctant).

But why?
A lot of the inspiration for me about what the new space will be came from watching Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse. The space is kind of being designed in the same vein. By growing a mullet, I'm showing my faith in the concept.

Do you have a girlfriend?
She doesn't know about it yet. She's not going to be happy.

She'll know now.
I tried to grow a mustache when we were opening Talde and we had some fights about it. She said, "That thing looks ridiculous on you. Shave it off." I only had about 13 facial hairs and they were getting long. I'm Filipino-American so I can't grow facial hair. It was a bad attempt at a mustache. I've had a quasi-mullet before, which I liked, but she hated it.

It'll be interesting to see how it goes over. I don't know if I've ever seen a good mullet.
Patrick Swayze had what's known as a sweet mullet. He had the sweetest of sweet mullets, but I don't know if I'd ever call them good.

So you're resurrecting two unpopular things: mullets and 'fusion' cuisine, which nobody wants to admit to serving anymore. You don't run away from the term.
If I'm the champion of those two causes -- mullets and fusion -- let it be known. We need to break those stereotypes. There's such a bad rap on fusion cuisine, but that's who I am and we're going to try to change that. My parents came to the United States as adults from the Philippines and I grew up as an Asian-American eating my mom's cooking, what she used to eat at home, and eating tater tots for lunch at my public school in Chicago. I have such an affinity for tater tots they're going to be on the menu at the new place.

You had a lot of delays with opening Talde. It was supposed to open last fall, right?
There were liquor license issues, waiting for permits, needing more cash. I asked my parents for a loan. They're here this weekend so it's the first time they've seen their investment. My dad has been busting his butt since he was 8, basically supporting his family in the Philippines after his dad died. He put eight of siblings, including half-brothers and sisters, through college plus three of us kids. He's the best father anyone could have ever had.

Is there any downside to being a reality star?
It's great for business, but it's tough on my significant other -- when you're out for dinner and someone wants to snap a picture of you, or walk up to you and say, 'Hey, how's it going? I know you from somewhere,' and then chat your ear off. It's been totally cool, but people think they know you and they literally only know minutes of your life. They want you to act like you do on the show but you can't duplicate that kind of stress and pressure at any given moment. We don't want to be a restaurant that people only come to because of the show. We want it to be an everyday restaurant that the neighborhood embraces. So far we've been blessed.

Would you ever want your own cooking show?
No. I want to be a chef in a restaurant.

You did one of those Munchies shows with Vice earlier this week. What was that like?
We went to Franny's and then a place called Pearl's, and drank a fair amount. I don't know how much. Then we all came back to Talde and I cooked chow fun noodles with braised pork shanks at about two in the morning. There were 30 people here, and this was after being at the restaurant since 9 a.m. and working all day. My girlfriend found me about four in the morning sitting up on the couch, still in my jeans and T-shirt and shoes, sound asleep. Then I had to be back at the restaurant by 10 a.m.

I keep hearing from people who work with you how nice you are, which isn't always the case with chefs.
When you see yourself not being nice on TV it's a real gut check. It's really embarrassing. The great thing about being on that show was letting me see myself the way other people see me. It's a unique perspective, and if you can be strong and change things about yourself, it's a good thing to take away from it. I was not a happy person before. I didn't like myself very much. I went into therapy for a couple of years and learned what was going on with me. I'm happier now. If you want to be the next Tom Cruise and do a lot of shows, then that's the path you've chosen. I love what I do. I wouldn't want to change it for the world. But I'd like a day off now and then.


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