Why Restaurants are Looking More Like Home

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Grace Park is the owner of The Kitchen Table, an event space in New York’s Little Italy. Grace opened the space in February 2014, drawing on her experience in restaurant and hotel design. We asked Grace about her first seven months in business, the changes she has seen in the restaurant and hospitality industries, and how people are thinking about food and entertaining.

How did The Kitchen Table get started?

I came up with this idea because I was trying to plan my boyfriend’s 30th birthday. I was just looking for a place where we could host this dinner party, and could cook for ourselves. I looked on Airbnb, but no matter how big the lofts or the apartments are, nobody has a table for twenty or twenty-six people. It would have ended up costing way more than we wanted to spend.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where people could hang out and it feels like home? Where you could have a dinner party and not have to clean up? You just leave. You wake up in the morning and you don’t have glasses everywhere. You don’t have to do dishes for four days.

Did you ever want to get involved in the restaurant business?

No, but I worked for a couple years in event production, so I got to know that side of things. [The Kitchen Table] is just an event space, but we have relationships with some of the best vendors in the city. So, we’re a resource for a lot of our clients who come to us and say “we want to do this great dinner party, but we don’t know where to start.”

What do your private clients generally look like?

Generally, it’s some sort of big celebration. It’s either a wedding or a birthday. We have not had a single rehearsal dinner, which is surprising to me, but we have had quite a few very small weddings. I have a soft spot for weddings. I love being part of such a special and intimate celebration and am always honored when people choose us as their venue. We actually have one today, and they’re using Linda Sarris, one of our favorite Kitchensurfing chefs.

So, the kinds of events where people would rent private rooms at restaurants, rather than  big banquet halls.

Exactly.

Why do you think restaurants are looking more and more like home kitchens?

I started in the restaurant and hotel design industry in 2006, and the communal table and open kitchen was becoming a trendy thing—even the super high end restaurants incorporating it. The most sought after dining experiences were no longer about having a white tablecloth and a waiter standing by. It became more about knowing the chef, seeing your food being cooked and knowing where it came from.

In New York—where apartment kitchens are so small, ovens are used for storage—a lot of people don’t cook at home. I think they consider the city’s restaurants their kitchens. At the end of the day dining out is a communal experience with friends and family. There will always be a place for very formal service, but I think people really just want to feel comfortable and like they can just stay a while.

Can you break down how the economics of the space work, versus how a restaurant would be running a catering and events wing?

So, restaurants make their money off of food and beverage, and not really space rental. We’re kind off the opposite: we make no money on food and beverage. We try to keep it as simple as possible. We actually have no staff—it’s just me, and then we hire staff as needed—if we have an event, we’ll hire people, and that’s actually billed to the client. We’ve had people approach us and say “if we can be your primary caterer, we’ll give you a certain percentage.” Something about that feels weird to me, kind of old school.

What have the highlights from your first seven months been?

Surprisingly, people approach us a lot for video and photo shoots, which is fantastic. There’s lots of stuff that comes up that I had never even thought of. We have clients that come to us to do off-sites. We had Vogue shoot here with Blake Lively. We filmed for “Moveable Feast,” which is a PBS show that follows two chefs around for a day. They go shopping and explore the neighborhood, and they bring it back and they cook for their friends. We get these really cool people who come through here and bring in their own business.

What has the success of your space taught you about hosting great dinners?

There are a few things I’ve learned that make hosting much easier:

Be prepared, you don’t want to be scrambling to get things ready a few minutes before invite time. Set the table and have the music ready (we love the Talking Heads Pandora station), and make sure you have time to freshen up and have a glass of wine before your guests arrive.

Decor is important, but you don’t need to spend a lot. A few bunches of single-color flowers and a lot of unscented candles make any space work. Do splurge on a nice set of cloth napkins though; they dress up any dinner party.

How do you and your clients fit into our current food and hospitality industries?

I think people are looking for a different experience. New York has a billion restaurants, and I think people are realizing that to have a private chef you don’t have to be a billionaire. I think people are expanding their ideas of what the food world is, and how they can be a little bit closer to it. They’re getting more curious. We’re seeing a lot of new, food-related careers and people who are turning their food hobbies into full-time jobs. Food has a way of bringing out the entrepreneur in people!

Find the chef to create a custom dinner party for you and your friends on Kitchensurfing. Make a Special Request for your next event.

Photo courtesy of The Kitchen Table.


Reinventing Kosher Cuisine

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Chef Eric Bolyard’s culinary career has included stints in Michelin-starred kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, but his latest creative challenge brought him to a new frontier: Yuda Schlass’s loft in Crown Heights.

In 2005, Eric shelved a business management degree on a hunch that he wanted to cook in restaurants, and soon found himself in Europe: first, in Basque country working the grill station at the legendary Asador Etxebarri, then at London’s St. John Bread & Wine, before returning to the U.S. to work at Daniel Humm’s celebrated Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan.

At the end of last year, Eric left the kitchen “to explore different avenues of alternative dining,”  including the launch of his supper club Tasting Society, and private gigs with Kitchensurfing. Six months into his restaurant hiatus, Kitchensurfing’s Yuda Schlass contacted Eric about preparing one half of an eight-course, all-Kosher tasting menu. And so began an illuminating culinary adventure that has confirmed many of the principles that define his work as a chef.

“I was bar mitzvahed,” he says, but “had zero experience with kosher cuisine”—a common refrain from those outside of the kosher community. Which brings us to a definition of terms: for the purposes of Kosher by Kitchensurfing, “Kosher” means more than avoiding certain combinations of meat and dairy.

Let’s start in the kitchen. Kosher meals must also be prepared in a kosher kitchen, with Kosher utensils and served only on kosher dishes. What makes a dish or utensil Kosher? The second your salad spoon touches non-kosher food, it is no longer kosher. If a milk spoon is used to mix a hot meat dish, that spoon will no longer be kosher. That’s why kosher households have entire sets of kitchenwares—including dishwashers—for exclusive use in kosher dairy or kosher meat preparation.

In fact, the logistics surrounding equipment and prep time are often the biggest challenge to chefs working in a kosher setting. “I’m very particular about how I store my mise en place, so if they don’t have enough quart containers, I start to freak out,” Eric jokes (he’s since started stocking extra disposable quarts specifically for kosher gigs).

All meats served at Kosher meals are certified “glatt kosher,” meaning they have been slaughtered properly according to kashrut, Jewish dietary law, and have undergone additional examination by a rabbi. Produce requires scrutiny as well. In order to be certified as kosher, all vegetables and grains must be inspected to assure that no insects are present at the time of sale or preparation. All other items—including oils, dairy items, and breads—must contain only kosher ingredients and be marked with a kosher symbol.

For Eric, those rules aren’t an obstacle. “For me, it’s a welcome challenge,” he explains, “It opens up the floor for other new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of without that constraint—I don’t like to use that word “constraint” because it’s not necessarily a constraint, it’s more of an opportunity.”

Eleven Madison Park, renowned as much for its food as its uncompromising approach to hospitality, prepared Eric for his work with kosher clients. “They actually make multiple sauces for almost every dish,” he explains, referencing the daily preparation required just in case a single diner has, for example, a gluten intolerance. “I’ve kind of been brought up with the mindset that you don’t have to sacrifice [the] complexity of a dish just because there’s some sort of alternative dietary restriction.”

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The goal of Yuda’s supper club—to introduce New York’s Kosher community to food they’d never tasted before—resonated with Eric. “Having a person say ‘I would have never thought of this’ is very rewarding to me,” he says. “It’s a very rewarding experience. It’s revelatory to see a very strong opinion being swayed in another direction.”

Consider his menu: ocean trout paired with charred white asparagus, pistachio and salmon roe; lamb chops served with modernist flourishes like rhubarb agrodolce and fennel purée; and his take on panzanella, featuring both dark rye and orange blossom “ice.” Each dish adheres the simple principles of Eric’s culinary philosophy—something familiar with something unexpected, essentially—and would also seem right at home on an Eleven Madison Park menu. With confidence that sourcing and preparation conform to kosher requirements, Eric’s attention returns to the plate, where it should be.

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Ultimately, kosher cooking is about creatively showcasing ingredients at their best, in a new, unexpected light—a goal that has nothing to do with kitchen equipment, dietary laws, or religious observances. Take Eric’s word for it: “Tradition is equated with limitation, and I don’t think that needs to be the case.”

Rosh Hashanah is less just one week away, and this will be the first New Year for the new Kosher by Kitchensurfing program. Headed by chef-rabbi Yuda Schlass, our kosher program features both chefs with extensive kosher cooking backgrounds alongside chefs who have been trained by our team and who work exclusively with glatt kosher products.

Learn more about about Kitchensurfing’s kosher chefs, and host a meal of your own. For more details, contact Yuda at kosher@kitchensurfing.com.


If You’ve Cooked in Michelin-starred Kitchens, What Do You Serve at Your Wedding?

First, the bride: Jessica Yang is a pastry chef who’s spent time at three exquisite restaurants: Per Se, Guy Savoy, and Chef’s Table. She grew up in California and studied chemical engineering and art history at Berkeley—and has since turned that scientist’s precision toward pastry. She met Robert in Paris while they were both working at the three Michelin-starred Guy Savoy.

Second, the groom: Robert Compagnon is the less-sweet side of the duo, and developed his culinary skills at Guy Savoy, Ko, Alain Ducasse’s Le Jules Verne, and Brushstroke. Robert grew up between Paris, London, and New York and studied Japanese at Columbia University in New York—which lead to one of his first professional cooking jobs at a ramen shop in Japan. He spent four years cooking in some of Paris’ best kitchens before returning to New York.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Yang and Robert Compagnon

Most people can count the number of times they’ve had good food at a wedding on one hand. So, how do you predict a catering disaster? Easy: beware the needlessly complicated menu in an unfamiliar environment. Fancy and good are not synonyms. More than two different entrées being served? Bad idea. Dishes that require precise timing to get the temperature right? Bad idea. Professional cooks know this because cooks see the carefully-orchestrated chaos that is dinner service every day of the week. If good cooks know this, what do they serve at their own wedding?

Here’s how Jessica and Robert are tackling that challenge.


Make Way for Late Summer Reds

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We’ve hit the backlash point of the summer: your jorts are looking a little worse for wear, the novelty of grilled meats has all but worn off, and you’re longing for a cool breeze that isn’t accompanied by an arriving subway train. Here are four red wines to drink when you’re over summer whites and pinks (and the weather hasn’t gotten the hint yet). 

1. Sweet Shiraz

The sugar to this Australian red’s typical spice, sweet shiraz is mouth-watering and berry-filled when chilled, with chocolate notes as it comes to room temperature. Great with anything from the grill, or just sitting on the fire escape, especially with its $10 price tag.

Suggested bottle: Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz

2. Barbera d’Alba & Barbera d’Asti 

Nebbiolo’s lesser cousin, the barbera grape is grown in the valleys of northern Italy. Its light tannins and high acidity make it an obvious choice for chilling. Meant to be enjoyed young, it’s unnecessary to pay more than $30 for a decent bottle. With its sour cherry and strawberry notes, it’s great with grilled meats, a fennel salad, or anything balsamic.

Suggested bottle: Hilberg Pasquero Vareij Vino da Tavola Rosso

3. Frappato

Frappato has long been utilized only to lessen the heft of full-bodied Italian wines, but some brave young vintners have started letting the fresh fruit flavors of this Sicilian grape stand on their own.

Suggested bottle: Arianna Occhipinti’s 2012 Tamí Frappato

4. Beaujolais

Easy-drinking Beaujolais had its heyday in the US thirty years ago. These days it’s frequently overlooked as great late-summer food wine. As great with a pile of salted tomatoes as with a juicy turkey burger, its low tannins and strong berry flavors are an easy swap for that rosé you’ve been guzzling.

Suggested bottle: Potel-Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes


Kelley Peters is Kitchensurfing’s in-house wine expert, she writes about wining, dining, and breaking things at Homefaking.


Zucchini Recipes: What To Do With All The Extra Summer Squash

It’s that time in the summer, where there is just. Too. Much. Zucchini. Honestly, where did it all come from? At this point, it seems like we may have exhausted our summer squash recipe folder. But have no fear! Two all-star Kitchensurfing chefs have generously shared their tips. Below, New York’s Dianne de la Veaux and Briana Ryan of Los Angeles share creative uses for summer squash.

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Tarragon-Lemon Summer Squash Soup
by Briana Ryan

INGREDIENTS

1 large yellow squash, sliced and quartered
2 green onions (scallions), light green and white parts, chopped
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon goat’s milk butter or coconut oil (to keep it vegan)
½ tablespoon olive oil or additional coconut oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups vegetable broth
Juice of ½ large lemon
½ cup coconut milk

1. In a soup pot, sauté the squash and onion in  butter and olive oil (or coconut oil, if preparing vegan) until onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic in the last minute or so.

2. Season to taste with black pepper, add tarragon, then pour in the vegetable broth and lemon juice and stir.

3. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender all the way through.

4. Remove from heat and add coconut milk.

5. Purée about half the soup in a high-speed blender or food processor then return to pot.

Serve immediately, and garnish with additional tarragon, chives, shredded Parmesan cheese, and croutons, if you like.

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Zucchini Pesto Spirals by Dianne de la Veaux

Slice one or two zucchini lengthwise very thinly — a mandoline is helpful for this. Toss the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a single layer for 10-25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned, but not falling apart.  

Once the slices are cool enough to handle, schmear some pesto on each one and roll it up into a two-bite spiral! This is delicious as a snack or on top of a bed of greens for an appetizer.

Enjoy these recipes? Try them out and share the final product with us on Instagram - tag @kitchensurfing and #KSgrams!


Labor Day Cocktails from Chef Adam Lewis

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So far, we’ve focused on the best food for Labor Day. When you’re daydreaming about backyard feasts with a chef running the grill, it’s easy to forget about an important element of every great summer party: the beverages.

That’s why we asked Los Angeles chef Adam Lewis for upgraded summer cocktail recipes to field test. We’re happy to pass his latest creations, the “New School Kentucky Mule” and “Stoned Sangria,” on to you.

Read the full recipes below (we know we had you at “Stoned Sangria”).


#UberCHEF in Pictures

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Last weekend, we joined forces with Uber NYC to bring on-demand chefs to the Hamptons. With lunch and dinner services completely sold out, we fed almost 200 hungry weekenders at 20 parties across the South Fork.

Here are a few of our favorite shots from the weekend. Pictured above, that’s Chef Ygael Tresser and his grilled kale.


Introducing #UberCHEF: On-Demand Chefs in the Hamptons

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Picture this: it’s an ideal summer Saturday in the Hamptons, and there’s a pop-up cookout in your own backyard with a private chef behind the grill. Sound good? This Saturday, you can make it happen.

We’re partnering with Uber to bring on-demand chefs to the Hamptons — specifically Bridgehampton, Southampton, East Hampton, and Montauk. Here’s how #UberCHEF works:

1. Open Your Uber App

2. Click “Request the CHEF”

3. If there’s a chef available in your area, you’ll get a phone call to confirm your location, party size (6-16 guests), and to check on any special diets or allergies.

4. You’ll be billed for $35 a person via the Uber app. No cash!

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So, what’s on the menu? We’ve worked with our chefs to develop four-course summer menus that go well beyond your standard grilled fare. Your chef will arrive with everything they need to take your party to the next level.

When your chef arrives, you and your friends could be enjoying dishes like skirt steak, grilled ahi tuna, or Korean-style grilled short ribs, each with mountains of sides featuring everything from summer produce to fresh lobster. Don’t worry vegetarians, each menu comes with meat-free options.

Not in the Hamptons? Follow @Kitchensurfing on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with our on-demand chefs. Check out #UberCHEF to see all the action.


Seattle Dispatch: Chefs Weigh In On Pacific Northwest Cuisine

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We’re still getting to know Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Aside from the obvious (salmon, Dungeness crab), people have a wide range of opinions about what constitutes “Pacific Northwest Cuisine.” There’s no simple answer, but to take a closer look at the question, we consulted an outstanding resource: our chefs.

Kitchensurfing Seattle chefs are regional experts who have been cooking and eating in the Pacific Northwest for decades. What is Pacific Northwest cuisine? Chefs Thad LymanMeredith Abbott, and Tom Rhyneer weigh in:

What is Pacific Northwest cuisine to you?

Meredith: PNW cuisine to me is preparing amazing ingredients simply to highlight their greatness. I love going to the many of the farmers’ markets or neighborhood grocery stores to check out what local produce they have in or find a delicious new cheese from one of Washington’s many creameries.  

Tom: To me, Pacific Northwest cuisine is all about the bounty of this majestic slice of the world. From the luscious seafood unique to the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound to the produce of fresh chanterelles, morels and the cherries and apples of eastern Washington. The commitment to sustainable farming and ranching practices and artisanal  products make it a culinary playground.

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What makes the food and culinary scene in the region unique?

Meredith: The People of the PNW are curious. They want to know everything about their food and drink, where it came from, who grew it and how it was prepared.  We celebrate everything local and aren’t afraid to brag about it.

Thad: What makes us special, huh? I’d say it’s the perceived remoteness of the region. Sure, you can get anything you want from the modern global economy, but we don’t want to. We try harder to use the best of our region and consumers are willing to try anything once or twice.

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How does the region impact your cooking?

Thad: I’ve found my comfort zone coming back to the PNW. I always did “pretty” plates in the big cities and wine country, but I’m happier when I’m cooking the style of food we do around here. I’m home, but I’m a more polished version of the Alaska boy who cooked hundreds of pounds of fish a week. Don’t get me wrong, I can still throw a blade through a fish like nobody’s business. But now it’s about the work I can do with it afterwards. I also have the ability to make sure my fish is better than my competitor’s because of our long-term relationships with vendors. They are our partners, not just the guys I get my carrots or meat from. We respect what they do and they respect us, so we all work towards the same end game - You having the best meal possible.

Meredith: I have become much more of an adventurous eater since being in Seattle. I love getting inspired by new flavors and textures I experience and turning them into new dishes. I have started learning the art of canning, dabbled in cheese making, lived on a farm for a week and tried my hand at cider brewing. There are an amazing number of craftspeople out here who are willing to teach and I am taking full advantage of it.

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Want to get a taste of PNW cuisine? Get started by checking out menus from Meredith, Tom, Thad, and the rest of our Seattle chefs.


Expert Tips for the Private Chef

As you know, we recently launched Kitchensurfing in Seattle. With a whole new crop of amazing chefs in the city, we asked two of our veteran Kitchensurfing chefs some common questions about their private cheffing protocol.

There’s so much that goes in to being an private chef: from logistics and marketing to plating, presentation, and interacting with your clients and their guests. For some expert tips on managing the private chef gig, we turned to Kitchensurfing chefs Josh Zinderman of Los Angeles and Chuck Valla of New York City. Here’s what they had to say:

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Time Management: How early do you arrive to a client’s house?

Josh: I arrive about an hour before or earlier if there is something special or extra that needs to be done. It’s better to have extra time and wait, than arrive later and already be in the weeds!

Chuck: Always arrive early! When I have to travel quite far, I give extra time time for traffic. One day I had a gig in East Hampton, over 2.5 hours away. But it was the day before July 4th, so I left the city 6 hours early. I got to the client’s house 3 minutes late, but they understood. Couldn’t imagined if I left the city later than that.

Equipment: How many knives do you bring to a gig?

Josh: Just a chef’s knife. Anything requiring a specialty knife should be prepped beforehand. If everything is prepped well, I barely need my knife.

Chuck: I only bring my favorite 8” chef’s knife.

Client Engagement: How much do you interact with the client in their home?

Josh: This is really a case-by-case issue. Some clients want to see and hear everything and specifically see how each dish is made. Others have their own agenda or entertainment and don’t want a lengthy speech. It’s fairly easy to tell though, once you arrive.

ChuckI always try to make conversation with client when they are around in kitchen. Tell them about your menus, special ingredients, or a story behind your dishes to make your client even more excited about the meal you are preparing. 

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For Fun: What do you enjoy most about cooking for people in their home as opposed to in a restaurant?

Josh: Cooking in a private residence is a really unique experience and is more intimate than a restaurant setting. You really get to see how people respond to your food. It’s pretty cool to see people’s reactions and they are so amazed to experience it in their homes. It provides a whole other level of service.

Chuck: When I cook at client’s space, the atmosphere of their kitchen makes me feel I’m cooking at home. I enjoy exploring their kitchen and trying to survive with equipment that is not familiar to my cuisine. It’s always a fun challenge for me.

Thank you to chefs Josh and Chuck! Got questions for the chefs? Share them in the Global Chef Community on Facebook.