Kristen Kish celebrates culinary fearlessness on Restaurants at the End of the World, interview

Chef Kristen Kish poses for a photo at Sem Pressa floating restaurant in Paraty, Brazil. (National Geographic for Disney/Autumn Sonnichsen)
Chef Kristen Kish poses for a photo at Sem Pressa floating restaurant in Paraty, Brazil. (National Geographic for Disney/Autumn Sonnichsen) /

From winning Top Chef to her role in Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend, Kristen Kish is well known to food television viewers. More importantly, her culinary creativity is on display at her Austin restaurant, Alro Grey. For years, Chef Kristen has explored flavors and techniques, which have been transformed into her culinary point of view. On the new National Geographic series, Restaurants at the End of the World, Chef Kristen discovers that some chefs celebrate fearlessness both by design and desire.

On the new National Geographic show, Restaurants at the End of the World, the four places that Kristen Kish visits are not necessarily the top of the Yelp restaurant list. While the food on the plate might be adventurous, the journey to sit at the table is not necessarily for the undetermined traveler. Although no one has to traverse danger, these locales are more off the beaten path.

While the location provides the backdrop to the culinary experience, it is not the path to the table that excites viewers. It is the discussions, exploration, and collaboration between Kristen Kish and the other chefs. From sourcing ingredients to discovering new approaches to dishes, the words spoken create a hunger to learn more.

During a recent conversation with Chef Kristen about her National Geographic show, this writer thought there was one word that seemed to tie all four episodes together. That word was fearlessness.

Although not necessarily a word associated with chefs, restaurants, or even food, that sentiment of being willing to push, accept the consequences, or even allow yourself to fail seemed to be key for the restaurants and chefs that she visited. In some ways, it could be a wonderful reminder for people both in and out of the kitchen.

Kristen Kish commented when asked about the fearlessness them, “you’re looking at these people who just when for it. When that question of what if this doesn’t work out, they said if, it doesn’t work out, I’m going to figure it out, make it work out.”

Chef Kristen said that the second premise is harder to grasp and appreciate. It is not about managing the fear, that emotion is part of human nature. The uncertainty of what can or cannot be happen has to be moved past the sentiment in order to live.

Instead of the fear, Chef Kristen focused on the idea that the common thread that ties them all together is the letting go of control. She said, “They all relinquish control to what will be will be to the environment, to the growing seasons, to the family. What if they can’t catch this like they’re relying on Mother Nature or mother Earth to give them what they need.”

Restaurants at the End of the World with Kristen Kish on National Geographic
Chefs Kristen Kish and Rogier Jensen taste the sorbet in the kitchen at Isfjord Radio in Svalbard, Norway. (National Geographic/Missy Bania) /

Throughout the series that situation is clear. Dishes pivot when the ingredients are not available. Sometimes, not having an ingredient could be the culinary breakthrough that no one expected. But for that situation, no one knows if the dish would have happened otherwise.

Chef Kristen looked at how she approaches cooking in her restaurant. While she can order what she needs, these chefs on Restaurants at the End of the World do not have that opportunity at the fingertips. In some ways, that perspective gave her some new insight.

Specifically, she said, “what I found incredibly inspiring was the approach of just playing around with the ingredients and see what happens. That situation happens in every single episode.” Even though the chefs might not be able to predict with certainty what will happen, they would be able to accept the result.

In some ways, it is almost like the journey that people take to visit these restaurants. It might not be the expected, but the food on the table will be a meal to remember. The result will always be enjoyable once the expectation is focused on the enjoyment of the experience.

To watch these culinary adventures, tune into National Geographic Tuesdays for new episodes. On March 22, all episodes will be available to stream on Disney+.