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Exclusive Q&A with Chef Seth Levine
'Hell's Kitchen' Star & Culinary Entrepreneur

 After being a contestant on Fox's hit reality series Hell's Kitchen in 2007, Chef Seth Levine has been taking the culinary world by storm. Levine has steadily compiled an impressive résumé, which runs the gamut from taking the role as executive chef for both Georgica and Wine and Roses in New York, opening POP YOGURT- one of the hottest frozen yogurt shops in Manhattan, and becoming a contributing editor to the internationally-distributed FOOD Magazine.

As co-owner and executive chef of Hamptons hot-spot Georgica Restaurant and Lounge, Levine's favorite dishes to serve and impress the Hamptons set include the Seared Scallops and the White truffle Lobster Mac and Cheese. Georgica, which was recently featured in Joonbug's Hamptons 2011 Summer Guide, has been frequented by celebs such as NY Housewife Jill Zarin, and actors Kellan Lutz and Whitney Port

Check out our Q&A with Seth to learn more about how he has taken his stint as a reality TV star and transformed that into an illustrious career.

JB: You were already cooking five-course meals for your family by the age of eight. What inspired you to become a chef?

SL: I guess I could give credit to a lot of different people for my inspiration in becoming a chef.  But being that food has been my passion for so long, I have to believe it is something I was born loving.  I was intrigued at such a young age, not only by the actual ingredient but the creation of a dish: the art of plating. I found myself watching every cooking show from “Yan Can Cook” to “Julia Child” and my favorite- “Great Chefs of the World.” I do have to give the most credit to both of my parents who always encouraged me to do what I love. They both cook, although on a home cooking level and they both have very different styles. They never stopped me from making a mess in the kitchen, and when I couldn't write down a recipe for a dish fast enough when it came on the screen, they took over.  There was no DVR or Internet back then so jotting down the recipe was the best you can do.  Eventually, after a seven-year stint at Goldman Sachs I decided it was time to follow my dream.
 
JB: You became a household name after appearing on Season 5 of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen."  How did you parlay that experience into a successful career? 

SL: After leaving Hell's Kitchen and not being the winner, I knew the window of opportunity to use the television show to my advantage was short. I am lucky enough to have many friends in the industry that introduced me to the right people.  Shortly after the show was over I linked up with who are now my partners at Georgica.  Cooking in the celeb/socialite world of the Hamptons introduces you and opens up many more doors, you just have to be smart and know which doors to walk through.
Last year I also took on the Executive chef position at Wine and Roses, an upscale wine bar on 73rd and Columbus.  I have a great menu up there as well and in my opinion one of the best wine lists in NYC.  Come check us out!
JB: How did you get involved with bringing POP Yogurt to the A. Turen boutique?
SL: I opened my first POP YOGURT two years ago.  My concept is to keep the store as small as I possibly can.  The unique size of the store draws attention on its own, and endless pictures are taken outside of my store because of that uniqueness.  I have known and been friends with Ashley Turen for almost ten years now.  Ashley would always complain that the Lower East Side was missing a great Fro-Yo shop, and during the construction process of the A. Turen boutique,  it was discovered that a portion of Ashley's store was a perfect fit for POP YOGURT. The space provided perfect frontage to display POP YOGURT's 40+ toppings, and today the second POP YOGURT location can be found at 85 Stanton St.
JB: Where did you get the idea to offer unique toppings such as Girl Scout Thin Mints, and Red Velvet Cupcake crumbs at POP Yogurt? 
SL: Being the generous guy that my dad is, he once purchased way too many boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mints from a Girl Scout.  In order to get rid of them, he passed them to me and I actually held on to them for awhile until I ran out of another yogurt topping. Needless to say I am now known to the Girl Scouts as a whale who buys 10-15 cases at a time.  I think I've sent a few scouts to Disney already!
Red Velvet Crumbs was a brilliant idea that came to me when I had several leftover Red Velvet cupcakes from my 30th birthday surprise party.  I made crumbs out of the extras and now have one of the most popular toppings around!
JB: Do you have an advice for a budding chef?
SL: When I was a kid, wanting to be a chef was not what your parents wanted to hear.  Now it's a different story.  I think if you dream of food, if you know what the dish is going to taste like before you taste it, and if it's something you love and crave- then go for it.  Nothing kills me more than to be on my line and see a heartless cook not giving each and every dish the attention it needs.  I wouldn't suggest it if you are just looking for a job. It's either your life or find a different career.