Eric Greenspan is a chef, the owner of three Los Angeles restaurants, and a former contestant on Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. Before joining a panel discussion on the virtues of gluttony and feasting, he talked in the Zócalo green room about cheese, superpowers, and cooking on TV.
What superpower would you most like to have?
Remember the Wonder Twins—the ones who could turn into animals? My kid likes animals so therefore my kid would like me.
What’s your favorite freeway?
The 10. Definitely not the 405.
What’s the most overrated cheese?
What dessert do you find impossible to resist?
Chubby Hubby. The best Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor ever.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve—I don’t want to call it laziness—is lack of excellence. I hate it when people don’t give it their all.
What teacher or professor changed your life, if any?
It was a professor at the Haas School of Business, and I was in this class with all these buttoned-up future consultants of America, and there I was—dreadlocks, Charlie Brown T-shirt, acing the class. I said I’m thinking of going to culinary school. He asked “Do you have any debt?” I said “No, I worked my way through college.” Then he said, “As long as you’re doing what you want to do, and can achieve it, do what you want to do.”
On what device do you do most of your reading, if any?
An iPhone. I own three restaurants and do entertainment stuff, and I do everything on my iPhone.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
Yesterday, it was one of my line cooks figuring out how to make a risotto after I’ve been breaking his balls for weeks.
If you could hear just one musician, living or dead, in live performance, who would it be?
Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia. When I saw him live, I didn’t have enough appreciation, like I do now, for the greatness that was Jerry Garcia. Just to get one more chance …
What’s the hardest thing about cooking on TV?
That it’s not real. The best thing about cooking in real life is that you’re cooking for somebody. You’re making a dish and serving it to someone and satisfying somebody. On TV, it’s competition, it’s quantifying something that’s not quantifiable.