festivals and events
raves and reviews
the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
On SOBEWFF‘s last day, a smokin’ hot new event made its mark on the weekend lineup. Hosted by Debi Mazar & Gabriele Corcos from the Cooking Channel’s hit show Extra Virgin, the Festival’s first ever Swine & Wine took over The Biltmore Hotel‘s elegant outdoor courtyard. This swine-celebrating evening soiree brought together more than a dozen celebrated chefs who served their tastiest version of whole roasted pig.
Each pit master spent the day preparing all natural, farm-raised Duroc and Hampshire breed hogs using a variety of techniques. Whether smoked, stuffed, roasted, glazed or rubbed down, succulent pork was spotlighted and paired with a selection of sides, wines and heavy-handed mojitos.
Representing six of the fourteen tasting stations, New York chefs had a strong showing at the swine showdown. Nick Anderer dished out tender Maialino al Forno, Marc Murphy carved up Southern-style porchetta stuffed with cornbread and andouille, and Michael White presented porchetta tigelle with pesto di lardo and salsa verde. Seamus Mullen smoked juicy Berkshire pork jowl and whole suckling pig, while Yuhi Fujinaga paired suckling pig with heirloom bean casoullet, morcilla dip and chicharrón, and Jonathan Waxman rolled out tangy blood orange pig tacos with creamy avocado.
In between savory bites, the crowd enjoyed the Biltmore’s dessert buffet, puffed Padron and La Flor Dominicana cigars, danced to live Latin beats from the Chirino Sisters and voted for their favorite pork dish. In the end, celebrichef Ingrid Hoffmann—Miami restaurateur and host of Food Network’s Simply Delicioso—snagged the coveted crown for her savory-meets-sweet mini pulled pork tacos with guava salsa negra and pickled mustard seeds.
From ballpark burger joints to highly acclaimed fine dining restaurants, the empire of Danny Meyer continues to dominate New York’s crowded culinary scene. With over 25 years of industry experience, multiple three- and four-star New York Times reviews and 21 James Beard Awards under his belt, the renowned restaurateur is most celebrated for his trademark approach to service and hospitality.
Recently, Danny and his talented team at Union Square Hospitality Group have set their sights on expanding to other locales, including additional Manhattan neighborhoods, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Miami, Washington DC, and even Dubai. Whether expressing his enthusiasm for a particular cuisine or being inspired by a culture-rich childhood, Danny demonstrates a true passion for life, family and food, in each of his distinctive ventures.
With all the current hype surrounding USHG’s rapidly growing portfolio and the intimate just-released documentary, The Restaurateur, I was eager to learn more about all the exciting things happening in the busy life of Danny Meyer.
Let’s start out by talking about something near and dear to the hearts of so many New Yorkers – Shake Shack. What’s in the works?
This summer, we’ll be opening in Washington DC, just below Dupont Circle, and also in the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. We figured as long as we’re opening in DC anyway, why not try to recapture some of the excitement like we brought to Citi Field a couple years ago.
And then we’re opening 2 other Shake Shacks this summer, one in Brooklyn and the other in Westport, CT on Boston Post Road. Westport is exciting because it will be the first Shake Shack that will not rely on pedestrian traffic—people will have to drive to it, and it will be interesting to see how it works, especially since Shake Shack was based on the traditional car-hop type of experience from the 1940s.
Also, our team is actually in Dubai right now, as we speak, because after 2 years of planning, we are opening our first international Shake Shack and its going to be a big one. It will be the exact same look and feel, except the menu will be translated in Arabic as well as English.
Congratulations on the opening of Untitled (in the Whitney museum). How’s that going?
Yes, it will be 3 weeks old this Thursday. We are still putting in the final physical touches, but it’s going very well. Even this past Monday when the museum was closed, every seat in the restaurant was taken. It’s a really fun take on the farm-to-table coffee shop concept, basically not trying to reinvent the wheel on the kinds of food people like to eat at a coffee shop, but saying ‘why not try to look a little bit differently on how the products are sourced and prepared?’
And you’ve had your restaurant, The Modern, and cafes in the MoMA for quite some time now. What is it about museum spaces that’s most appealing to you?
I absolutely love art. My mom actually had an art gallery where I grew up in St. Louis and when I was in college in CT, we used to come down to NY and go to the MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney. I love being part of the cultural execution of a restaurant and, this may sound odd, but I love playing second fiddle to something that is much larger than we are.
For the same reason that Citi Field was so exciting, to be able to add to the excitement of things people love doing anyways—I can’t tell you how thrilling it is. For example, Jazz Standard was created not to take away from what people were coming for—jazz—but rather to enhance the experience with great food and drinks.
Hospitality seems to come first in any venture you put your name on. How has this mentality driven your success?
I think it’s what comes most naturally to me. We are so fortunate to be living in a city where there is an abundance of good food and chefs—so the challenge is to not find good food, but to find good food in a place that makes you feel good as well. People ask me all the time “how do you find such great chefs to work with?” For me, that’s the easy part. I know food, but the part that really can distinguish us is to not only find someone who can cook, but someone that loves to naturally make others happy through his or her dishes. That is what is important. This concept applies to all other positions in the restaurants including servers, maître d’s, managers, etc., who are not only great at what they do to keep the restaurant operating, but are also emotionally hard-wired to make sure every diner is having a great experience.
I’ve seen you at a few events recently, including South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash. How is having a presence at events and interacting with customers first-hand important to you?
There is really nothing more important. There is a limit to what you can learn behind the scenes. Interacting with our staff and guests—seeing, smelling, feeling and hearing what’s going on—is how we get all of our great ideas. It’s important that we use all of our senses in order make a place sing as sweetly as it possibly can.
Roger Sherman’s documentary, The Restaurateur, was just released on DVD. How did you feel about seeing yourself on the big screen?
In life, we wake up every day trying to do things a little bit better than we did yesterday, and going backwards in time was a really odd sensation. Note: I highly recommend seeing this film, which captures all the stresses, tough decisions and joys that Danny and team endured when simultaneously opening Tabla and Eleven Madison Park. The bare-all portrait features footage dating back to 1998, including a chef being replaced after initial reviews, signature-dish creation from Floyd Cardoz and Tom Colicchio (then executive chef of Gramercy Tavern) with hair!
Is there a standout piece of advice that you’ve received from a mentor and carried with you throughout your career?
I’ve received a lot of advice over the years, but I have to say, “Keep it meaningful and keep it real.” If you’re going to do something, do something that matters. Don’t just do it because you’re told it can’t be done. Before we decide to open a restaurant, we have to really understand where it came from. The reason why we are moving into baseball stadiums is because we love baseball, we know baseball and we understand what makes it a great experience.
Your restaurants have already won 21 James Beard Awards and recently received another 4 nominations. What does this kind of constant recognition mean to you and your staff?
It’s a tremendous morale booster. Fortunately, it’s not something that goes to anyone’s head because that could be dangerous. If anything, it just feels good and motivates us to start a new day and do whatever you can to be better tomorrow. The people in our organization are extremely proud of what they do, and it feels amazing when other peers in the industry, people who they respect, give them a vote of confidence. It’s like them saying “as much as you respect us, we think you’re one of the best in the business.” It just feels great.
If you could take a week off of work, with no Blackberry or emails, what would you do?
Well, being disconnected from my business is not something I personally could do, but I would love to take a bike riding trip in the south of Italy. Get a lot of exercise, eat a lot of great food and meet a lot of people. That would make me very happy.
I read that you lived in Italy when you were younger, is that right?
Yes, for about a year and a half with my wife. Mostly Rome, but also spent a little time in Bologna, Sardinia and Milan. That was really the motivation for opening Maialino, my love affair with Italy.
In addition to a strong love of Italy, having a large family is also something we have in common. Do your children like to play around in the kitchen?
Yes, we have 4 kids, and they all enjoy being in the kitchen, absolutely. Our oldest daughter, who is a senior in high school, is constantly cooking and baking—it’s a rare day that she doesn’t find time to bake something, even with her heavy school workload. It’s how she relaxes. The others love to cook as well and LOVE to eat.
Is there anything else on the horizon that you’d like to share?
Well, as sad as it was to close Tabla at the end of last year, the expression that “every time a door closes, another one opens” is so true. It gave us the opportunity to plan and conceive North End Grill with Floyd Cardoz, who was our chef at Tabla. This restaurant will really focus on refined grilling, which is very different than barbecue. Rather than slowly smoking something, it will be about really carefully grilling something. Floyd and I are so excited about it and he’s going to an amazing job with it.
Danny, thank you again for taking the time to chat with me and best of luck with all your new ventures!
For more info on Danny Meyer and his establishments, visit USHGNYC.com.
(Note: photo courtesy of Danny Meyer)