Bill Telepan, Telepan, Upper West Side, Farm to Table, Local Ingredients, Sustainable Restaurants, Manhattan, New York, Union Square Greenmarket, Eggs, Egg


Chef Bill Telepan wants food to taste great. He buys locally, cooks seasonally and has been a regular at the greenmarkets since 1991, when he was a sous chef at Gotham Bar and Grill. Back then, he was considered an early adopter. There weren’t a lot of chefs buying farm fresh produce and hauling it back to their kitchens.

Bill graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and honed his technique in world class kitchens. He apprenticed in France with Michelin-starred chef Alain Chapel. He came back to New York to work with Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque, and Gilbert Le Coze at Le Bernardin, before being hired by Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar & Grill, where he was executive sous chef for four years. His next stop was as executive chef at Ansonia. From 1998 t0 2004, he was at JUdson Grill, where he garnered three stars from the New York Times.

In December of 2005, chef Telepan became a bright light on the Upper West Side when he opened his namesake Telepan. His menu features seasonal ingredients with a sprinkling of Hungarian influences, an homage to his own background.

He is also the first chef in the city to get involved in bringing healthier foods to schools and volunteers with the Wellness In The Schools program.

Once a year, Telepan features a Passover seder for two nights. How did you start doing the dinners?

We were slow the first year because of the holiday and some of our customers and Jimmy, my partner, suggested we do it.

What are some of the new twists on your seder dinners? Or shall we ask - why is this menu different from all over menus?

Well, like all things here, we try to have fun when we cook. And not being Jewish gives me some liberties.


You’ve become very involved and very effective by volunteering with the Wellness In The Schools program. What are the biggest challenges you face working with the school system? 

There are a lot. The money for one thing. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is being voted on now, and they are seeking $500 million per year. Obama wants $1B, we think we need $4B to really make a difference. They should really look at the long term effect of this, Congress could make a change for the better for our children’s future. The other is, over the years, so much processed food has infiltrated the system that the cooks don’t cook. They need to be re-trained.


What’s been the most satisfying aspect, so far?

The kid’s faces and the cooks who are working with us. People think kids don’t know or like food. They have terrific and curious palates. People think they don’t want to try new food. That’s not true. And as for the workers, when we make something and they try it, they generally like it and they want to learn.


When you opened up on the Upper West Side in 2005, it was considered by many to be a "restaurant wasteland." From your perspective, what was it like when you first opened and how has it changed?

There wasn’t a lot in the ‘hood. I have lived up here for almost 20 years and there weren’t a lot of choices, but now, wow! So many places to go. And good!


You’ve been a long time advocate of using farm fresh ingredients and shopping at local greenmarkets. With so many restaurants opening that tout the farm-to-table label, what are the effects (positive or negative) on the produce marketplace?

I think that the newer restaurants are chefs who worked in restaurants where the philosophy happened. So more farmers are growing more, which is great. Since I have been around a long time, I am on the top of the list, so I usually get what I want, but it is only positive. I also think this is the way to cook, whether you are an ethnic restaurant or a farm-to-table restaurant. I see different kinds of restaurants buying, which is cool.


Are there items available now, that were previously not available, that you are excited to include on your menu?

I have been happy that the quality of local meat has gotten better. And I really enjoy seeing new greens and different colored veggies like cauliflower and carrots become mainstream.


Beyond local produce, what part does sustainability (with regards to vegetables, meat, fish, or wine) play in you kitchen and on your menu?

I am very aware and try really hard to work with these items. Fish is getting tougher every year. I almost eliminated it from my menu because besides endangering of species, the levels of bad things in fish make me weary.


What are the least “chefy” and most “chefy” things you like to eat and why?

I guess the least chefy thing is I just love spaghetti with tomato sauce. Love it.

The most chefy thing I like are things like livers, and raw fish... there are a lot of chefy things I like.


What is your least favorite new culinary trend and why?

I guess the comfort food thing. As a chef who’s been trained to be creative and current, all people seem to enjoy know is comfort food for many reasons, and the craft of being a chef is regressing. 


Is there something (ingredient or gadget) you always keep in stock at your home that you would advise a home-cook to stock?

Extra virgin olive oil and a sharpening stone.


Who else in your field is doing interesting things that you think should deserve more praise and why?

Although he gets press, I don’t think enough, but Paul Kahan really knows what we want to eat.


Any exciting projects in your future?

Wellness in the Schools is going to launch a Cook for Kids program in 20 schools. We are looking to hire culinary graduates to work along side school cooks to help cook, train and teach parents and students. We are also looking for restaurant partners to help inspire and cook.

As for the team at Telepan, we are looking. We almost opened a wine bar which would be fun considering the wine talent in our restaurant. So a project like that we are looking into.

Favorite off the beaten track places to eat, that you’d be excited to take an adventurous eater?

For me, off the beaten track is Brooklyn. I love the Grocery and Franny’s out there. Celeste on the Upper West Side. Really adventurous would be the raw chicken at Yakitori Totto.


Won’t break the bank, but has killer food?

Burger Joint for burgers. My sous-chef brings us awesome dumplings from Shanghai Cafe, and I love Daisy Mae’s BBQ.


Top five restaurants (other than your restaurant, fancy or casual)?

In NYC, I love all the places with the chefs I worked, Gotham, Le Bernardin and Daniel. Others are Momofuku, Locanda Verde, Casa Mono, Shun Lee is fun, Balthazar and Minetta.


Other stand-out restaurants, anywhere in the world?

I had a great, GREAT meal at Alinea in Chicago, and all of Paul Kahan restaurants there. I loved my meal at Chez Panisse a long time ago, and my favorite restaurant in the world is Cibreo in Florence.




Upper West Side

72 West 69th Street
New York, NY 10023 (view map)

T:212.580.4300 (make a reservation)



Wed - Fri: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Sat - Sun: 11am - 2:30pm
Mon - Thu: 5pm - 11pm

Fri -  Sat: 5pm - 11:30pm

Sun: 5pm - 10:30pm


Bill Telepan’s recommendations on where to eat in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, Berkeley, and Florence, Italy.


Bill Telepan’s recommendations on where to eat in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, Berkeley, and Florence, Italy.

Inspired by Ingredients: Market Menus and Family Favorites from a Three-Star Chef

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