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Q & A with Lee Schrager

Posted on Sep 30, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

How do you convince the King and Queen of Spain, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton to show up at a food event?  Ask Lee Schrager.  Schrager is a force to be reckoned with in the food world.   He not only launched the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, but also a second festival in New York City.  And next week, on October 8th, he’ll host his second annual NYC festival.  Highlights include Rachael Ray’s Burger Bash, Giada DeLaurentiis’ Meatball Madness, and dinner with Alain Ducasse.    To think, his first job in food was working at a Chinese take-out counter.  Schrager studied at the CIA, oversaw room service, and owned a nightclub.  But the pivotal turn in his career was when he became director of media relations and special events at Southern Wine & Spirits.  He threw his...

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Q & A with Andrew Carmellini

Posted on Sep 15, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

I love dining out, but if I could hire a personal chef, it would be Andrew Carmellini.  I’d never get bored.  He’s as good at cooking Italian as he is at French.   And he’s wonderful at rustic, comfort cuisine, especially roasted garlic chicken.  In fact, Carmellini used to be the private chef for Governor Cuomo when he was still student at the CIA.  Carmellini started cooking at a local Italian restaurant when he was 14 years old.   That was just the beginning.   Since then, he’s cooked at San Domenico in Manhattan and Emilia-Romagna, as well as Lespinasse, Le Cirque, and L’Arpege in Paris.  Cafe Boulud was a turning point in his career.  During his six year tenure at the UES French eatery, the American chef garnered a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef and Best Chef:...

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Q & A with Ken Friedman

Posted on Sep 3, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

What compels a guy in the music industry to open his own restaurant?  Ken Friedman couldn’t find a restaurant where he could wear jeans and still eat great food.  So he got a few friends to invest and opened one himself.   By friends, I mean Jay-Z, Fatboy Slim and Michael Stipes.   That’s who your friends are when you work in the music industry for 25 years, including at Arista Records with Clive Davis.  The Spotted Pig  literally became a celebrity hangout overnight.  More importantly, it sparked a gastropub trend and paved the way for upscale British pub food.  It was just the beginning of Ken Friedman & chef April Bloomfield’s relationship.  The two went on to open The John Dory, which closed rather suddenly this past weekend.  Friedman explains: “We didn’t feel we could ever make it work at...

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Q & A with Juliette Pope & Ralf Kuettel

Posted on Aug 25, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

It all began in the kitchen at Zoe.  Juliette Pope was a line cook, and Ralf Kuettel was the sous chef.  The two have been together ever since, and in the process, both have achieved successful careers in the food world. Juliette Pope started her career in the kitchen.  She worked at Zoe and Union Square Cafe before moving to the pastry station at Gramercy Tavern.  It was there she met Gramercy Tavern’s wine director, Paul Grieco who now co-owns Hearth and Insieme.  Juliette Pope has succeeded in becoming one of New York City’s top wine directors. Swiss-born Ralf Kuettel started at Union Square Cafe and later went on to become the executive sous chef of Zoe.  He made his solo debut in 2007 at Trestle on Tenth in Chelsea.  There, Kuetell does triple duty as the chef, owner,...

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Q & A with Danny Meyer

Posted on Aug 19, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Even the most talented chefs and savvy restaurateurs have had to abandon ventures and close one of their restaurants at times.  Not Danny Meyer. In the 24 years he’s been in the business, he’s never had to close a restaurant.  Instead, his empire continues to grow with a new trattori called Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel.  Eleven Madison Park just received four stars in one of Frank Bruni’s final reviews.   Eleven Madison Park is now one of just six restaurants to earn four stars from the New York Times. Danny Meyer’s first job in food was an assistant manager position at Pesca, a seafood spot, in the Flatiron District back in 1984.  It didn’t take long for Meyer to get restless and open a restaurant of his own.   He launched his career at Union Square Café —...

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Q & A with Josh DeChellis

Posted on Aug 13, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Josh DeChellis is a jack-of-all-trades in the food world.  He was born in Colombia, got his first job in an Italian joint in New Jersey, and has since cooked everything from French to Asian to tempura.  DeChellis trained at the CIA, then went on to work with such notable chefs as Wolfgang Puck, David Bouley, Jean-Georges, and Charlie Trotter. DeChellis had dinner at Rocco DeSpirito’s Union Pacific and and decided he wanted to work there.  Following Union Pacific,  he went on to opened a few restaurants of his own, including Sumile, a Japanese restaurant, and a modern American tempura spot called BarFry.  These days, Josh DeChellis is tackling modern Spanish cooking at the newest incarnation of La Fonda del Sol.  His bar room menu features  tapas, like patatas bravas and black mission figs with serrano ham and goat cheese. ...

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Q & A with Ryan Lowder

Posted on Aug 6, 2009 in Chef Q&A

Ryan Lowder craves action – perhaps that’s why he traded a career in finance for one in the kitchen.  And just recently, he jumped from Spanish cooking at Mercat, where he ran the kitchen, to Italian.  This former pro skier and mountain biker credits his culinary interests to grandparents who were farmers.  He got his start at the bottom, delivering pizzas, washing dishes, and bussing tables in Salt Lake City, and eventually headed east to the Culinary Institute of America. Instead of hanging around for graduation from the CIA, Lowder found himself working at Jean Georges, followed by stages and consulting gigs in both Colombia and Spain.  Arriving back in New York, he worked at Casa Mono and as the opening chef at Mercat, where his cooking garnered the attention of restaurateur Sasha Muniak, a regular at the chef’s counter at Mercat. Currently, Chef Ryan Lowder...

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Q & A with George Mendes

Posted on Jul 29, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Distinguishing yourself as a chef is not easy.  Yet, George Mendes has done just that with his first restaurant, Aldea located in the Flatiron District.  This Portuguese chef has managed to bring invigorate Iberian cuisine with his modern twists on classic Portuguese and Spanish fare.   Mendes has been working two years to get Aldea off the ground.  Prior to his solo debut, Mendes graduated from the CIA and went on to train under such esteemed chefs as David Bouley and Alain Ducasse.   Multiple stages in France and Spain further prepared him for the role of executive chef at Le Zoo and Toqueville. At Aldea, he’s receiving deserved critical attention for his vibrant Iberian cooking.  The menu’s filled with Spanish and Portuguese classics, like shrimp alhinho as well unique bites, like sea urchin toast with cauliflower cream, sea...

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Q & A with Eric Hara

Posted on Jul 14, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

It takes courage to step into a sinking kitchen, but  Eric Hara plunged into The Oak Room at the Plaza after the departure of Joel Antunes.  He’s certainly qualified for the task.  He began experimenting with souffles at the age of sixteen and worked under Michel Richard at Citronelle in Santa Barbara. By age twenty-six, Chef Hara was already running the kitchen at Chez Josephine.  Soon after, he built a lasting relationship with David Burke at both David Burke Townhouse and Fishtail and then went onto accept the “Rising Star Chef of 2007,” award.  At The Oak Room, Eric Hara’s created a modern, accessible menu, including a Fry Bar with a variety of unique toppings.  He’s also brought over his signature PB&J foie gras from David Burke Townhouse. Single/Married/Divorced?Married with a 2 ½ year old son, Jaden. What did...

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Q & A with Joel Dennis

Posted on Jul 7, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

You would assume Alain Ducasse would put a Frenchman in charge of Adour, his haute French restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel.   Joel Dennis isn’t from France.  “I’m just a kid from upstate New York,” says Dennis, who grew up in his mother’s kitchen.  He started at the very bottom, working as a dishwasher at a Vermont ski resort, where he learned  humility and dedication were instrumental in the kitchen.  Dennis went from the CIA straight into Alain Ducasse’s kitchens in both Paris and New York.  But when he was offered the chef de cuisine position at Tru, he leaped at the chance and moved to Chicago.  He played an instrumental role in earning the restaurant four stars from the Chicago Tribune.    In November, Ducasse offered him the chance to replace Tony Esnault at Adour.  I asked why he...

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Q & A with Gina DePalma

Posted on Jun 30, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

If you need a little inspiration, just look at Gina DePalma.   She’s battling ovarian cancer, launched a cancer foundation, won a James Beard Award, and writing a second cookbook.  She’s also the pastry chef at Babbo.  Not bad at all.   It was a long road up.  DePalma’s first job was as the cook, the only cook, in the kitchen of a small town cafe in Northern Virginia.  After years working in the restaurants, she earned a culinary arts degree from the Peter Kump cooking school.  She was literally forced into pastry by a teacher who sent her for an externship in at Chanterelle.  From there, she went to Gramercy Tavern to work under Claudia Fleming   At Gramercy, DePalma cultivated her simple, ingredient-driven style before moving on to become the pastry chef at The Cub Room, then onto...

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Q & A with Keith McNally

Posted on Jun 23, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Keith McNally has mastered the art of French restaurants better than most Frenchmen: the tin ceilings, weathered mirrors, and red leather banquettes.  Just look at his body of work — Balthazar, Pastis, and Schiller’s Liquor Bar.  Not bad for a working class British man, who used to bus tables at Serendipity and shuck oysters at One Fifth.   But before he arrived in New York, McNally tried to make a living as a theater and film actor in London. Nowadays, McNally oversees seven restaurants, including his newest venture, Minetta Tavern.  It’s something straight out of the 1930’s — the restored bar, the murals, black & white photographs, Grand Marnier souffles and tavern steaks.  If you thought he was done, he’s embarked on another- a yet unnamed pizzeria on the Bowery.  What does McNally do in his spare time?  He tends to his...

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Q & A with Silkstone

Posted on Jun 17, 2009 in Chef Q&A

Once upon a time, ambitious young chefs trained under big name chefs, so they could follow in their footsteps one day.  Take Ben Towill:  he grew up in a small town in England, trained under several celebrated chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, for a number of years.  His next stop was New York, where he opened Kingswood and helped make it a popular Australian gastropub.  But Towill’s next move was a bit unexpected.  He didn’t leave Kingswood to open his own restaurant.  He handed the kitchen over to his younger brother to open a catering company called Silkstone.  These days young chefs buy trucks and sell anything tacos to desserts.   Instead, Towill dreamed of catering parties, feeding his guests with only local, organic and the freshest of produce.  For much of his childhood, Towill was ill.  His health only improved when he began...

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Q & A with Drew Nieporent

Posted on Jun 10, 2009 in Chef Q&A

There are a lot of seasoned restaurateurs in this town, but few as versatile as Drew Nieporent.  That’s why he named his company Myriad Restaurant Group.  Nieporent’s accomplishments include cuisine from sushi at the world-famous Nobu to Mexican at Centrico.  His most recent venture was also a huge risk.  Opening an upscale French restaurant in this economy isn’t exactly a sure thing.  But Nieporent and chef Paul Liebrandt pulled it off. Not exactly what you’d expect from a guy who once worked at McDonald’s.  His key to success was a crucial understanding of quality and service at spots like Tavern on the Green, Le Perigord and La Grenouille.   In 1985, Nieporent opened Montrachet followed by Tribeca Grill in 1990 then Nobu in 1994.  Somehow, he still finds time for charity work, recognized this year at C-CAP’s annual fundraiser. On another...

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Q & A with Michael Psilakis

Posted on Jun 3, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Mention Greek cuisine and most New Yorkers immediately think Michael Psilakis.  So does Obama.  The President invited him to cook at the White House for Greek Independence Day dinner.  He’s come a long way from serving ice cream at Carvel. How did Psilakis brand himself in Greek cuisine?  He introduced us to the simplicity, bold flavors and rich ingredients Greece has to offer.  And at Anthos, he modernized it and developed his own style mingling Greek with modern cooking and other influences.  Kefi, his casual Greek spot on the UWS, was so popular, that he and co-owner Donatella Arpaia relocated into a much larger space.   It all started while he was running a restaurant called Ecco.  One night a chef pulled a no-show and that was the beginning of a career in the kitchen for Psilakis.  It hasn’t been an...

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Q & A with Danny Abrams

Posted on May 20, 2009 in Chef Q&A

There are few restaurateurs as seasoned as Danny Abrams.  He has successfully opened some 15 restaurants, bars, and clubs since he got his start as a busboy and roller-skating waiter.  And did you know his brother, Steve Abrams, owns the Magnolia Bakery empire?  Apparently it runs in the family.  Many of his ventures are still thriving today, including Smith’s and The Mermaid Inn as well as The Harrison and The Red Cat, now run by former partner Jimmy Bradley.  How does he do it?  Abrams’s answer: “I think I worked hard, hired people smarter than myself, and was open to all feedback.”  It seems like everyone’s branching out to the Upper West Side these days, but Abrams foresaw the UWS restaurant rush early on.  Rarely does a restaurant concept travel from downtown to uptown so well, but The Mermaid...

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Q & A with John DeLucie

Posted on May 11, 2009 in Chef Q&A

New Yorker’s love a challenge.  Just look at the Waverly Inn.  Two years later and reservations are still tough to come by.  Walk-ins crowd around the front bar hoping for a table.  But what differentiates the Waverly Inn different from every other sceney restaurant is the quality of the cooking.  That’s where John DeLucie comes into the picture.  He’s the chef and co-owner of the Waverly Inn.  De Lucie’s not your typical chef.  He worked in the corporate world for many years.  But at age 30, he called it a day and threw himself into the kitchen.  He started off prepping salads in the basement of the original Dean & DeLuca store in SoHo.  Since then, he cooked at Oceana, Nick & Toni’s, & The Tribeca Grand, before teaming up with Graydon Carter to open the Waverly Inn. This...

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Q&A with Marcus Samuelsson

Posted on May 6, 2009 in Chef Q&A

There are a lot of chefs who do more than just cook.  But there are few as accomplished or as interesting as Marcus Samuelsson.  Marcus was born in Ethiopia, then adopted and raised in Sweden.  His culinary career began selling bread to tourists by boat.  Samuelsson learned Swedish technique and cooking at the Culinary Institute in Göteborg.   He worked as an apprentice in both Austria and Switzerland before traveling to the America to work at Aquavit.  There, he was quickly promoted to executive chef, and just a few months later, became the youngest chef to receive three stars from the New York Times.  Recently, Samuelsson traveled back to Africa and wrote a pan-African cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine.  He also opened AQ Cafe and just recently partnered with Starbucks to raise awareness of African cuisine.  As an...

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Q & A with Takashi Yagihashi

Posted on Apr 29, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

What comes to mind when you think of Detroit?  The auto industry, Detroit Red Wings, and Eminem.   Detroit’s not really known for its food.  But Takashi Yagihashi has changed that.  He debuted on the Detroit dining scene with Tribute, a highly acclaimed French Japanese restaurant and followed it up with a second venture, Takashi, where he puts a French-American spin on Japanese cooking in Chicago.  Before landing in Detroit, Yagihashi got a degree in interior design.  Instead, he ended up training at Yoshi’s Cafe, then French Ambria.   He’s also opened Noodles in Macy’s and has written a cookbook on all things noodles, called “Takashi’s Noodles,” which explores everything from spaghetti to soba gnocchi.  At Takashi, his menu features yellowtail kampachi with monkfish foie gras and Tosasu dressing as well as a roasted strip steak with wasabi, miso-glazed fingerlings, and fried...

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Q & A with Alex Guarnaschelli

Posted on Apr 22, 2009 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

The last time we caught up with Alex Guarnaschelli was two years ago.  A lot has changed since then.   She’s still the executive chef at the celebrity hangout, Butter.  But now, she hosts Food Network’s “The Cooking Loft,” became a mom and an imminent cookbook author. Guarnaschelli trained with some of the finest chefs, including Guy Savoy, Larry Fiorgione, and Daniel  Boulud.  Since 2005, she’s been in the kitchen at Butter.   While her cooking may not get as much attention as the scene, it deserves it.  She manages to pull off Greenmarket cuisine year-round.  For spring, she’s created  a spring pea salad with crispy bacon, chervil, tarragon and parmesan, as well as a Hudson Valley duck breast with sunchokes, roasted date puree and sunflower greens.   First thing’s first — how’s juggling motherhood and a fulltime restaurant job? To me...

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