There are many reasons to love Dale Talde. Some fans recall his memorable stints on Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars, where he brought a sense of humor—and some fresh kicks—to the Bravo’s beloved cooking show. Others have become devotees of his Brooklyn restaurant Talde, where he channels his Filipino roots and other Asian influences into inventive dishes like pretzel dumplings and roast-chicken dinner ramen—all with an emphasis on messy, stoner-friendly grubbing.
But we’ll be honest: It wasn’t until he opened his roadhouse-inspired dive bar, Pork Slope, and put a huge-ass tray of nachos on the menu that we really knew he was the truth. With the classic bar snack at risk of falling into obscurity in NYC, Talde’s in-your-face platter is a call to arms to other chefs to stop fronting and start making some damn nachos.
Talde may not have recognized the true depths of his own love for nachos until sitting down with us for a chat, when he realized that many of his earliest cooking memories pulse with nacho cheese. The man also has some serious rules when it comes to constructing proper nachos, as well as strong opinions on tri-colored chips (never). A fan of the free-for-all nature of nacho eating, he’s also not afraid to let the customers get buck wild with extra toppings, even if that means throwing on chicken nuggets or torn-up pieces of grilled-cheese sandwiches (“If you decide to put something weird on it, then it’s not my problem”).
At the end of the day, Talde says it best himself: “I’m the guy who fucks with some nachos.” Here, we chop it up with him about his early nacho memories, his thoughts on construction fundamentals, and his aversion to nacho leftovers.
The Nacho Gospel According to Dale Talde
The beginning of his nacho love affair: It all started back in the school cafeteria, where a young Dale would save up his lunch money for the week so that on Fridays he could buy both a cheeseburger and nachos instead of the $1.25 mess no one could identify. “That was my shit. I think that is kind of where the affinity for it began. On Friday it was like, Okay, get your burger and your nachos and crush it.”
From there, his relationship with nachos turned into a more familiar stoner affair as he started getting blazed and heading to the local mall, where a buddy of his worked at a pretzel joint. With access to a vat of nacho cheese in the back of the pretzel kiosk, Talde started concocting his own munchies-inspired creations. “You know, most of those places don’t have [stoves], so you would have to bang it out in a microwave or on a little hot plate they had in the back. It got real gross. We would just kick it in the back of this small-ass pretzel joint, and it would be like nine dudes just fresh getting baked in the car and rolling into the back of this place still fucked up, eating salty-sweet pretzels and dipping them in nacho cheese. Yeah… it was gross, really gross.”
The fundamentals of good nacho-making: Sprinkling shredded cheese over chips and heating them up is just not an option for Talde. In fact, he has a rather strict and potentially contentious take on nachos. He believes that cheese sauce is part of the definition of of the dish; otherwise, it’s “just chips and some other stuff.” Talde also emphasizes the importance of no cold chips, and certainly none of those of mutli-colored chips. Of the latter he says, “You know that shit’s automatically going to suck and be stale.”
The inspiration for Pork Slope’s tray-style nachos: The nachos at the bar are served on a red plastic tray, a move inspired by late-night dining escapades Talde had in Miami after getting off of work at Makoto. He and other cooks would head to a spot called Flanigan’s in Bal Harbor, a restaurant with a gigantic menu and half-price food and drinks. One night, not knowing what to order, Talde went back to his trusted old friend, nachos. “When they showed up I was like, What the fuck?! They were literally on one of those round pizza platters, and I swore to God they put like a whole bag of chips on there. So yeah, I had it once and I was like, ‘This is the shit.’ That was definitely the inspiration for Pork Slope.”
The importance of nacho architecture: After initial attempts to serve nachos in a basket, Talde realized, “None of the chips on the bottom get any love.” The tray solves a lot of issues: It’s easier to get even coverage; multiple people can share at the same time; and you can scour the spread and go for “the crucial chip pull” (i.e., selecting the perfect chip). The portion is enormous, and the platter has become a head-turner among guests at Pork Slope. “People are constantly going, ‘What the fuck was that?’ My mom was here last week and she was like, ‘What is on that tray?!’ and I go, ‘Oh, those are the nachos.’”
On nachos as leftovers (never that): Thinking about taking soggy chips home is blasphemous according to Talde: “The thing with nachos is that in a sentence and in a discussion, there should never, ever be the word leftovers. You leave them as they are, ’cause if you didn’t eat it, that’s on you. That’s too gross to take home. It’s repulsive. You should feel bad about yourself if you have ever gotten to the point where you say, ‘I want to take these home.’ No, you shouldn’t. I recommend that you don’t.”
Eat these nachos! Pork Slope, 247 Fifth Ave between Carroll St and Garfield Pl, Park Slope (718-768-7675, porkslopebrooklyn.com)