Hot Chef: Paul Corsentino, The National

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Paul Corsentino is the executive chef at The National (557 Lexington Ave., 212-715-2400).
Credit: The National

After first working with Geoffrey Zakarian back in 2005, at Country, Paul Corsentino honed his skills in other kitchens, and returned to reunite with his mentor at The National. Located close to Grand Central, the David Rockwell-designed bistro recently kicked off a new weekly dinner series, featuring live music on Sunday evening’s called The National Sessions. We chatted with Chef Corsentino about pickling, ovens and ugly burgers.

What’s the most underrated item in your kitchen?
Our combination oven; it’s an oven that can cook at any temperature but, more importantly, at any level of humidity. We use it every day to cook our chicken, which helps keep the breast perfectly moist. We also roast many other items at various levels of humidity to ensure moist food.

You’re into pickling things. What’s the strangest thing you’ve pickled?
We have pickled white and green asparagus. The white is outstanding, the green, not so much. We’ve also pickled peaches, which goes quite well with pork belly.

There’s something on your menu at The National called the Ugly Burger. Why is it named that and is there such thing as a pretty burger?
It didn’t always have that name. It’s actually called the Ugly Burger now, because when we got our New York Times review, Sam Sifton called it an “ugly looking affair … but has flavor to spare.” Geoffrey then wanted to rename it, so we did. I’m sure there is a pretty burger … but it’s probably not nearly as delicious as our ugly one!

We’ve seen you on “Iron Chef” helping out Chef Zakarian. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from cooking under pressure like that?
The number one thing I have learned is to trust your instincts and stay calm. As soon as you start to second-guess something you are doing, things can go south quickly. If thing do go wrong, you need to stay calm to fix the problem.


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