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Q & A With Will Goldfarb

Somewhat of a pioneer in the pastry movement, Will Goldfarb launched the radically successful dessert bar Room 4 Dessert.  There he charmed diners with such vanguard creations as litchi sorbet with tea air and choco bubbles.  Though Room 4 Dessert has recently shut its doors (due to creative differences amongst partners), Goldfarb shows no signs of slowing down.  His newest venture, Picnick, will bestow a “green” kiosk on Battery Park, bearing haute sandwiches and pannacotta in paper cups (opens Labor Day weekend).  A student of Le Cordon Bleu and Ferran Adria’s at Spain’s three-starred El Bulli, Goldfarb has emerged an ingenious “mad scientist,” fascinated with chemically altered states of cooking.


Happily married.

How did you meet
your wife?

She interviewed me to see if I would be a good roommate for a shared
apartment on Bleecker Street.  The first time that I saw her, I knew that
we would be married shortly.  We were engaged a few weeks later.

Does your wife work in the restaurant industry?
She is starting her own
company specializing in residential kitchen design.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
A soccer player.

How do you go from applying for law school to fleeing to France to cook
for five years?

Virgin Atlantic.  Even
the economy class had excellent bar service and plenty of legroom.

How did you gravitate toward sweet versus savory?
I have always been preparing
food.  Most food is sweet and savory.  The trick is to have the
correct balance based on the customers perception of what each course
“should” taste like.

Do you believe you played a part in the recent dessert bar trend in New York?
I was fortunate to be at the
opening of Espai Sucre in Barcelona in 2000.  Chika Tillman definitely should have the credit for opening the first bar in New  York. I think that Room 4 Dessert would definitely be credited with starting
the pastry chef trend as crossover/rock star status that it has found in the media in
the last 18 months.

Were you ever worried the concept for Room 4 Dessert
wouldn’t take off?

[I worried] everyday until I walked
away.  But people really loved it.  Whenever the media and your clientele agree with your taste, you are very
fortunate.  But, I think that the ability to communicate directly with the customer was the
key to our success.

News just broke that Room 4 Dessert has closed.  Was
that difficult for you?

It was difficult for me to
walk away from 17 Cleveland Place. Room 4 Dessert is alive and well with me. 

What’s next for you? Will you be gifting New Yorkers with another
dessert bar in the imminent future?

Imminent is a word I never like to use in terms of a New York opening, but
you can be sure that my desserts will be coming soon to a mouth near you.  Fortunately, I have a lot of projects in the pipeline, at
different levels of development.  And I will be happy to share them with
you when it is appropriate.  Right now I want to focus on Picnick…

There’s a “green” kiosk in Battery Park in the works for a
Labor Day opening? What did you build it out of? What’s on the menu?

Actually, Claire Weisz, of Weisz & Yoes, designed the
beautiful kiosks in The Battery for The Battery Conservancy.  It is made with love.  The items are really straightforward sandwiches, salads and drinks. This what real people want to eat everyday. 

Rumor has it you’ll also be reopening in a different
location with a savory selection in tote come February. What do you envision
for your new restaurant?

I love rumors.  They are so much more interesting
than facts.  I would like to branch out (since I have been alternating
between “real” food and dessert for 10 years)
but I think that it is intelligent to focus on dessert, as
it is integral to my brand development.
  It would be premature to comment on any anticipated
openings, but I love the bar structure, and I think that customers do too. I think that a fresh market cooked to order menu with
little pretense would be a welcome addition to the Manhattan restaurant scene. And then if I become famous enough, and financially
successful enough, I would consider a gastronomic bar…

After living abroad for so many years, would you ever
consider opening Room 4 Dessert bars in other countries?

I’ve more than considered. I am currently reviewing proposals from each continent with the exception of Africa (for now!)  I think that our signature style is in much demand, as evidenced by our massive
media following from around the world, and our international clientele.
I think that world domination would be a fair analysis of my aims, but I would also be happy selling cigarettes on the beach in Puglia, if it means I get to see more of my
wife and daughter.

Your style is anything but run-of-the-mill to say the
least, what inspires your atypical style, manifesting in frozen chocolate mousse, caviar
mango and apple tartare?

My wife and daughter.

You’ve even created your own line of products that you now sell on your
site, Willpowder.  Who are your gastronomically inclined customers?

“All shapes and sizes, Vince. All shapes and sizes.”  Many professional chefs are interested in learning more about the ingredients
that are a part of my repertoire.  We have tried to structure our
offerings to give people the chance to buy a little product and learn from our
recipes, and then offer a better price on bulk products, when they become a
part of our chef/partners’ repertoires.  I think 2008 will see a much
greater crossover to the home, and I would like to help enable that.  Basically, I’m doing it for the mortgage.  But as I’m sure you know, there are a lot of faster ways to pay the mortgage.  I am only involved with projects that I am passionate about.

Have you always
been interested in chemistry? What inspired your molecular curiosities?

I was a decent chemistry student in high school, and
skipped it at Duke [University] because it seemed too boring.  I have learned a lot from Herve This in developing a better understanding, but I am not a scientist, just a cook.

You also constructed a rather serious cocktail menu for Room 4 Dessert.  Do you
fancy yourself a mixologist or is this another vehicle to dessert?

I like to drink.  And I
like when a restaurant has consistency among its offerings, and this should
extend to the wine and spirits program. The luxury about dessert is that all roads lead there.  I am not a
mixologist; Jim Meehan, Yvan Lemoine, Dale DeGroff… these are mixologists.

You attracted quite a following at
Room 4 Dessert.  Where do you suggest loyalists indulge their sweet tooth until you

I was very lucky to have so much support.  Room 4 Dessert customers are the best in the world.  In the meantime, I would suggest that they go to WD-50 to
try Alex Stupak’s desserts, P*ONG, and of course Tailor by Sam Mason, which I am hoping will open very soon.  There are several pastry chefs like Johnny Iuzzini, Sebastien Rouxel, Michael Laiskonis, and Alex Grunert, who are
all excellent.  The only challenge in regularly tasting their desserts is that they
would include a fine dining tasting menu, which can be somewhat expensive.  Although the bar at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center is pretty solid as well.  I would recommend the Maison du Chocolat
and Pierre Marcolini on the chocolate side, and then you can just email me and I’ll bring something
special to your home. I’ve got free time.

Many new restaurants have opted to outsource their
pastries. What are your thoughts? Do you ever worry that pastries will become a
thing of the past?

I am actually in favor of
this trend because it has the ability to reward me financially, as well as
offering an interesting opportunity for brand extension.  Pastries will
always be in high demand because people love them.  The fact that small to
medium restaurants simply cannot afford a high ticket pastry chef, along with a
limited labor pool, and new opportunities for entrepreneurial pastry chefs,
means that outsourcing as a trend is likely to continue. Thank heavens.

I read somewhere that you don’t eat dessert, is that
really the case?

I don’t believe anything I read, especially if it is about me.

What is your junk food of choice?
A McDonald’s double cheeseburger from the dollar menu – no contest.

What are your favorite restaurants in NYC?
Tia Pol, Momofuku and Momofuku, Ssam, Degustation, and WD-50.  I am also very fond of these restaurants lately: The Tavern at Gramercy, Eleven Madison, Parigot, Quartino, and of course, Zabb Thai in Queens. I like a lot of restaurants in New York, and now I have the chance to eat at some of them.

What culinary trend do you most embrace?
The rise of the pastry chef
as a rock star.

What trend do you wish would die already?
The rise of the pastry chef as a rock star.

Any other projects on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in the works? Spill the beans…
Stay tuned…

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl
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