Chef Stephanie Gray’s contributions at Kildare’s in West Chester shine through in homemade dishes that warm the soul, while her road to get there was full of grit and determination.
When it comes to creating new recipes, Stephanie doesn’t complicate things. She says, “Sometimes people try to take food a little bit too far; they don’t let the food speak for itself.” By keeping a strong focus on quality, fresh ingredients, Stephanie and her kitchen squad are able to create minimal dishes that possess a special spark. Stephanie continues, “You can make amazing dishes with three ingredients, and so many of my recipes are three to five carefully picked ingredients.” In true homemade fashion, Kildare’s in West Chester serves up people-friendly dishes that anyone who visits will love.
Those nostalgic feelings of warm, filling meals are evident in the way Stephanie first became acquainted with cooking. She recalls, “My mother and my grandmother were both very good cooks, and my grandmother was an unbelievable baker. I remember when I was young that I would sit on the floor watching Julia Child; I would have an empty bowl and a spoon and pretend to make a soufflé with her.” While Stephanie’s memories bring good, homey feelings to mind, she also knows the cooking industry is not glamorous.
Although she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Stephanie believes you cannot earn the title of chef in a classroom. She says, “I worked for years to become a chef; it sounds weird, but you earn that title in the kitchen. You don’t graduate from culinary school and become a chef. You make no money, you burn yourself, you cut yourself, you sweat, you work overnight because you ran out of food and you sacrifice a lot of family time. You have to earn your keep.”
Those sacrifices can come in many forms, but Stephanie also appreciates the struggles that got her where she is today. She recalls four months she spent cooking in New Orleans being especially rough but fulfilling: “I was stuck at work during a hurricane, and we worked 20-hour days to feed people because other hotels shut down and we actually had food.” That grit and determination are instilled in Stephanie’s kitchen through consistently great food, while her friendly demeanor keeps things somewhat laid-back among her staff. She says, “When it’s crazy busy, it’s just perfection. Our kitchen runs like a well-oiled machine.”
The Grays’ friendly demeanor—husband Dane Gray is the owner—are evident in all aspects of Kildare’s restaurant, from the food to the aesthetic. However, hidden under the friendly, easy-going aspects are the serious and confident traits that go into building a top-notch establishment. Stephanie recalls how she knew she was meant to be a chef—a fascination that came from focusing on chefs’ hands. She says, “I used to watch chefs’ hands when they cooked and used knives and added ingredients. I still do it to this day—there’s just something about the look of their hands. Their workers’ hands … they know what they’re doing. I was fixated by how the confidence of the chef came through in the hands.”
Stephanie’s confidence is not only evident in how she cooks, but in her resulting dishes. They may contain few ingredients, but they are carefully and intelligently designed with playful flavors. By letting the fresh food’s flavors shine through, she achieves bliss through minimalism. To experience that feeling yourself, get to Kildare’s in West Chester. Below, find Stephanie’s recipe for a homemade Tri Pepper Salsa.
Tri Pepper Salsa
Stephanie serves this salsa on grilled salmon topped with fresh pesto at the restaurant, but it can go on chicken, sandwiches or any other fish. The possibilities are numerous! Stephanie notes, “This is a great example of simple flavors and of letting ingredients cook down so flavors combine and work together perfectly.”
- ½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1 red pepper, small dice
- ½ cup banana peppers, small dice
- 1 white onion, small dice
- In a sauce pot, sweat the onion until translucent. Be careful not to burn it.
- Keep it on medium heat. Once translucent, add in peppers and cook until all are soft and flavors are well developed.
This salsa will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Kildare’s in West Chester is a destination: an authentic Irish pub that has something for everyone. We’re a place to bring the family for weekend brunch; cheer your favorite soccer (or American football) team; enjoy next-level fare at a business lunch, dinner with friends or special event; spend happy hour (questionable dance moves and all); and, of course, imbibe great beer, whiskey and other adult libations. Join us and find out why we’re not your average Irish pub.