Q & A With Ilan Hall, Part 2: The Gorbals' Chef on Eating Bugs, Topless Servers (Not His) + Why He Loves Animal

In which we continue our interview with The Gorbals' chef-owner Ilan Hall (part 1 was yesterday). Hall spends a lot of time in motion, navigating his open kitchen and the slightly cavernous space around the downtown restaurant, which is in the Alexandria Hotel, circa 1906. The Gorbals often seems in flux too, but Hall says that the changes he's orchestrating now are minor and aesthetic. The mirrors. The menu. Check back later for one of the dishes that's currently on the menu, his take on the BLT.

The Gorbals' open kitchen & counter

A. ScattergoodThe Gorbals' open kitchen & counter

SI: Is there anything you won't eat? Or have refused to eat on your travels?

IH: No. No. Not at all. I know lots of chefs who won't eat stuff, but I'll really eat anything. When I was in China with my father, I ate bugs. You go to a restaurant and you walk around and your server has a notepad and it's like an exotic pet store. You're like: that, that, that. Do you want that fried or sauteed or steamed? Bugs. Water beetles. Silkworms are very good, light and crispy. I kind of want to play with some bugs.

SI: Who do you think is doing interesting cooking in LA right now?

IH: I don't know, I love Vinny and Jonny [Dotolo and Shook of Animal], I think they're interesting. And it's not just because they're my friends. I think their food is genuinely delicious and they're right up my alley. I was so happy when I came here and I went to their restaurant. Because I didn't know too much before I came here, I mean, I knew about the fancy stuff, and Campanile is great and Mozza's great, but they do it for me.

SI: Was it hard to start up again after being on hiatus for awhile?

IH: You know, it wasn't hard to start up again. It was that I had no idea if people were going to come in. We tried to be as loud as possible, especially after there was so much momentum in the beginning. We've been open since October 31st, and maybe it would have been busier sooner, but we've been really busy now. It's great. But you never really know. You can try and let people know as much as possible, but we're inside of a building, so it's very difficult. We're actually thinking of putting tables outside on days when it's warm.

SI: You could always have topless girls again. I was eating dinner at the bar a few weeks ago, and these topless girls came in with serving trays. What was that all about?

IH: That was a very strange party. I didn't know that that was going to happen. And then it just sort of happened and it was very weird. They were doing this big party next door, and we were doing the alcohol for them and they were plating. I didn't know that there were going to be nipples involved.

SI: Anything else I should ask you about Top Chef?

IH: Well, I used my winnings to travel and to learn about food, not to open a restaurant. I haven't had a steady kitchen job. Actually, that was something that I was nervous about, that I haven't been consistently in a kitchen. I mean I think it's like riding a bike, but actually cooking on the line, I've never taken a break from it.

SI: How long of a break did you take?

IH: Almost 3 years. I mean, I was cooking, I was doing events, but I wasn't cooking and prepping every single day.

SI: So are you having fun now?

IH: It's amazing. but also different, it feels so good. So good to have things in my hands. There's a lot of stress that goes with it. I see everything so much more now, things that I would totally take for granted when I worked for someone. You have to. It's all my fault. It doesn't matter what anyone else does. It's all me. I don't know, we're doing a couple renovations. We're NOT CLOSING AT ALL.

SI: He says really loudly.

IH: No, no, no. We're just doing a couple of cool things to the dining room. Changing some tables, getting blinds, some tea lights, a standing bar, we're hiding all of the wires. Just tightening everything up. Lots of tightening.