New D.C. hotel restaurant Anthem promises innovative American fare
Local writers and Marriott's executive chefs collaborated on creating a menu for the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C.'s restaurant Anthem. The Marriott Marquis is slated to open in early May.
Great expectations surround the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., a $520 million project poised to open in the first week of May. This newest outpost of the hospitality empire will serve as the hotel headquarters of the Washington Convention Center but may also, perhaps more importantly, become a landmark for the revitalization of the adjacent Shaw neighborhood. “We want the new Marriott Marquis D.C. to do in Shaw what the New York Marquis did in Times Square. We want it to be a significant chapter in the neighborhood’s history,” says Joseph Danza, food and beverage manager of the Marquis Washington, D.C. These high expectations project heavily onto the new hotel’s Americana-inspired dining venues, among which Anthem will stand out as the flagship restaurant.
The opening of the new location will occur in tandem with the hotel’s newest international initiative, named “Travel Brilliantly.” As part of this program, guests are encouraged to share their ideas about what they would like to see during their stay at a Marriott location, and the Marriot team will take these into consideration and may even implement them. To showcase this concept, the culinary team at Corporate Headquarters Marriott International in D.C. suburb Bethesda, Maryland, recently opened its test kitchen to a small group of food writers for a menu development event. Journalists worked together with Vice President Culinary and Corporate Chef Brad Nelson and newly appointed Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C. Executive Chef Matthew Morrison to develop the Anthem restaurant menu by evaluating potential menu items and offering their professional opinions about individual dishes.
But it wasn’t all about slappin’ rockfish on the grill and garnishing plates with micro-greens. While the practical portion of the event offered hands-on, chef-side experience in the kitchen, attendees also delved into the conceptual side of menu development. Will the cuisine at Anthem be tailored to local, national or international tastes? Will the kitchen source locally or will it boast rare imported items? Will the menu embrace recent culinary trends or defy them? Each writer was paired up with a chef to work on a single dish and each dish seemed to exemplify one such conceptual issue.
The kitchen acknowledged a new culinary trend by incorporating kale chips into the mix. The kitchen experimented with three flavors of the crunchy-yet-healthy snack that has been popping up on menus all over the country and played with the idea of serving these as a sampler trio. The flavors included a Caesar and an Asian-inspired seasoning (possibly a nod to the dish’s Asian cousin, the nori or seaweed chip).
Click here to view the full menu!
Best Lunch & Dinner in Washington, D.C.
We think variety is the spice of life, and at Farmers & Distillers we have tried to create a menu as diverse as our nation. Inspired by our farmer owners, Founding Father George Washington, the chefs at Mount Vernon, our Washington, D.C. neighborhood, and more, we’re certain that Farmers & Distillers can be your best place for lunch in DC, favorite place for dinner in DC, or maybe even your top favorite restaurant in DC. Whatever your flavor, if you haven’t tried us yet, check out our menu and come on down to our restaurant and distillery in Mt Vernon Square. We are pretty sure you will agree that we are one of those “go to” good places to eat in DC.
Farmers & Distillers is the perfect spot for a family dinner, gathering of friends, or lunch meeting with coworkers and clients. Check out our Steak House, where we collaborate with and buy the majority of our beef from family-owned purveyors, who work directly with Pennsylvania cattle farmers. Our pork comes from Leidy’s in Souderton, PA. From Herb-Crusted Prime Rib to Steak Frites, we’ve got delicious, satisfying meat dishes you will love!
If you crave seafood, don’t miss out on our extensive menu of premium, sustainably wild-caught or sustainably farmed fish and seafood. From a casual meal of FF Fish, Chips & Beer to our Cracker-Crusted Shrimp, you will love what we have to offer. Or try our signature Glazed Cedar Plank Salmon, Mid-Atlantic Scallops, or our range of other seafood dishes guaranteed to impress.
Looking for a great plate of pasta? Our pasta is handmade in-house, every day. We offer a variety of pasta dishes including our Oversized Cheese Ravioli, Linguine Pomodoro, our famous FF Seven Cheese Macaroni, and more. Change it up with some of our Chinese Favorites like Hand-Pulled Noodles and Take Out Style dishes.
Whatever your palette craves, you are likely to find it at Farmers & Distillers. Stop on by for lunch or dinner today.
Reservations are now required at Farmers & Distillers. We’re looking forward to serving you in the near future, so book a table today!
D.C. Writers and Chefs Collaborate on New Marriott Menu - Recipes
Grapefruit halves are getting the culinary treatment on forward-thinking menus. At Piccolina in Washington, D.C., grapefruit is charred slightly in the wood-fired oven, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a pinch of salt and basil.
By Clay Allen Rogers
December 17, 2019
Grapefruit may be considered a winter citrus, but that hasn’t stopped chefs from featuring it as a unique year-round restaurant offering. Most who experience the thick-skinned citrus do so as an at-home breakfast item, with two halves, a spoon, and some sprinkled sugar to contrast its trademark tang. Now, the classic halved grapefruit is being transformed by chefs in surprising ways as a standout offering. Here, three chefs share their culinary takes on grapefruit.
Amy Brandwein serves wood-fired grapefruit halves with an olive oil drizzle, finished with a salt and basil leaf garnish at Piccolina in Washington, D.C., where she is chef/owner. She says her customers are “extremely surprised” to see a wood-roasted grapefruit on the menu, but it’s a well-received menu item, served all day, year-round. “I am still surprised how sweet it becomes when wood-roasted,” Brandwein says, noting that roasting knocks down the bitterness. At Piccolina, the inspirations do not end with the conventional grapefruit half: For a winter special, she features a fruit salad composed of grapefruit and other citruses, drizzled with honey, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil.C&S Seafood & Oyster Bar
At C&S Seafood & Oyster Bar in Roswell, Ga., the Half Brûléed Grapefruit is topped with vanilla yogurt scented with ginger, honey and mint.
Brûléed grapefruit is a popular brunch menu item at C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar in Roswell, Ga. Executive Chef/Co-Owner Jon Schwenk serves the halved grapefruit coated with sugar and caramelized with a torch. For a signature twist, he then tops it with organic ginger-mint yogurt. Schwenk’s appreciation for the citrus—coming from fond memories of sharing a morning grapefruit with his grandfather—inspires creative menu ideas. “I like to use grapefruit in butter sauces and salads,” he says, “but my favorite is pairing it with raw fish, such as in carpaccio, crudo and tartares. It’s well balanced with the acid, but not too sweet.”
For the Grapefruit Brûlée on the brunch menu at Ēma in Chicago, Chef C.J. Jacobson pan-fries the grapefruit half, then coats with sugar, mint, lime, cinnamon, allspice.
For another take on brûléed grapefruit, C.J. Jacobson, chef/partner at Ēma in Chicago, starts by cutting the ends of the fruit so that the halves do not roll around on the plate and sectioning it to ensure that all sections will easily release. Jacobson covers the grapefruit edge to edge with turbinado sugar, then caramelizes with a blowtorch until it’s left with a glassy texture. The plated grapefruit is garnished with mint, grated Ceylon cinnamon and sprinkles of allspice and sea salt. “Finally, I hit it with a little lime zest,” he adds.
Being able to source quality citrus allows Jacobson to serve grapefruit year-round. When asked what inspired the creation of this dish, Jacobson tells a story of the special place grapefruit has in his heart. “Before I even wanted to be a chef, I ate at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. I had a lemongrass grapefruit salad that blew my mind,” he says. “Since then, I’ve made deep explorations into the world of grapefruit.” Jacobson highly recommends one of his favorite combinations—grapefruit and sage—for a memorable flavor experience.
The Rise of the Guest Chef
IN EARLY JULY, Blaine Wetzel flew halfway around the world to cook for a night in another chef’s kitchen. He traveled from the Willows Inn, his acclaimed locavore restaurant on a remote island north of Seattle, to the two-Michelin-starred Mirazur on the French Riviera. “It’s amazing to work with ingredients you’ve never seen before,” he said. Two days later, in an alien setting with a team he’d just met, he served paying guests an eight-course meal that included Mediterranean monkfish, clams and giant prawns, sun-kissed lemons, Italian bottarga and wild bitter greens.
The same night, July 10, in top restaurants across the globe, 36 other chefs were plating up food far from home as part of a synchronized stunt known as the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle. “We wanted to take chefs out of their comfort zone,” said Italian food writer Andrea Petrini, the logistical mastermind behind the event, which sent Frenchman Alain Ducasse to Lake Garda in Italy, Italian Massimo Bottura to New York’s East Village and Mirazur’s Argentinean chef Mauro Colagreco to the most celebrated restaurant in rural Slovenia. Diners, who prepaid for their meal, only learned who was cooking when they sat down to eat.
The Gelinaz! dinners, sold-out worldwide, marked a moment in global food culture, one that could pose a threat to our old-fashioned notions of what makes a “restaurant.” From guest-chef dinners to new venues where chefs rotate through full time, restaurants aren’t always the static, predictable places they used to be. In fact, with so many chefs so mobile—hosting pop-ups, takeovers, collaborations and swaps—there’s often no telling these days who might be preparing your food.
The most hyped chefs now travel like rock stars on tour, flown around for limited cooking engagements. These may be impromptu one-off events or, more likely, part of an organized series booked months in advance. Can’t make it to hot ticket Maaemo in Oslo for dinner? Head chef Esben Holmboe Bang is doing two nights in New York this month.
But what can diners expect from chefs when they’re out of their element, far from the equipment, staff, ingredients and setting that make their restaurants click? The best guest appearances don’t even try to replicate the chef’s usual fare, delivering something entirely different instead. Like Mr. Wetzel at Mirazur, the chef might be experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients—the creative process on display—or with new cooking styles or techniques. Or a unique collaboration might be the draw, a few like-minded chefs riffing off each other in a jam-band meal.
There are all sorts of good reasons for giving up or sharing a kitchen for a night—or for traveling a great distance to cook somewhere new. Financial rewards are rarely among them. “We’re lucky if we break even,” said Matt McCallister, who collaborates on tasting menus once a month, alternating courses with a guest chef, at his Dallas restaurant FT33.
Sometimes the point of having visitors cook is to bring the restaurant world together. That was the motivation at Mandu, a buzzy Korean restaurant in Washington, D.C., where until recently rotating chefs contributed their own late-night bar snacks on the first Friday of every month. “The chef community here is insanely close-knit and very loyal,” said Mandu’s chef Danny Lee. “Those nights were a chance to work with each other without having to open an actual restaurant together.” The series became so out-of-control popular among chefs and diners that Mr. Lee wrapped it up last spring. “It just turned into a zoo,” he said.
&ldquo You get the most forward-thinking food from coast to coast in one restaurant. &rdquo
Chefs generally extend invitations to collaborate with colleagues they admire or respect. “It keeps my staff excited,” said Matt Lambert, of New York’s Musket Room, who has flown in three chefs from Europe to cook with him so far this year. For brand new restaurants, high-profile guests can help generate early buzz, or even put the kitchen through its paces to help work out kinks. Before officially opening Death & Taxes, a new Raleigh, N.C., restaurant devoted to live-fire cooking, Ashley Christensen had some top Southern chefs in to cook for a few nights. “We learned so many things from each of them,” she said, “watching them set up their stations, write their menus, their approach to the grill.”
Though many chefs host colleagues simply to shake things up for themselves—“I think of it like continuing education,” said Mr. McCallister—diners often respond well, happy to pay a premium to get up close and personal with a chef they’ve read about or seen on TV. (While prices vary greatly from venue to venue, visiting-chef dinners can sometimes run as high as nearly double the normal price of a meal at the host restaurant.) “People want to feel like they’re participating in something extraordinary,” said Christopher Kostow, who hosts an annual 12 Days of Christmas guest-chef series at the Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa. “They want to see the chef in the kitchen or coming out and saying a word or two.”
Novelty is part of the appeal of these evenings as well. With that in mind, a few entrepreneurs have begun to incorporate the guest-chef idea into a new restaurant model that relies entirely on rotating chefs, offering a blank canvas for an itinerant chef for a few nights, weeks or even months. These venues are as varied in style and motivation as the chefs who come through. At the Chefs Clubs run by Food & Wine magazine in New York and Aspen, anonymous house chefs execute recipes contributed by new stars of American cooking. “You get the most forward-thinking food from coast to coast in one restaurant,” said Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin.
Many of the new revolving chef restaurants, though, are about giving up-and-coming talent a showcase, serving as incubators for chefs preparing to branch out on their own. “I started to think about how much fun it is for me mentoring artistic people,” said veteran restaurateur Rich Melman, whose new Chicago restaurant Intro rotates through a new chef every three months. Diners get a preview of a young man or woman hoping to launch their own place. Mr. Melman sees it as a way of serving the “percentage of the population who always want to be first to discover something new.”
Where the Chefs Are
AT ONE RESTAURANT, the guest-chef concept gives diners the chance to sample the cooking of a celebrity from a distant city. At another, it’s an opportunity to catch a local star on the rise. The reasons for chefs to kitchen-hop are many, and the formats for these meals vary wildly. One thing diners are guaranteed: the element of surprise. Here’s a roundup of collaborations, swaps and guest-chef events worth taking a chance on.
Birch | Providence, R.I.
Since opening his ambitious restaurant two years ago, Ben Sukle has been regularly having friends from around the country in to cook—along with a few high-profile chefs he’s admired from afar. The tasting menu dinners focus on local ingredients, with Mr. Sukle alternating every other dish. birchrestaurant.com
Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton and Greg Denton of Portland’s Ox
For his monthly collaborative dinners, DJ-turned-chef Matt McCallister brings hot chefs to Dallas for a night. Evenings are often themed. A monochrome dinner alternated black and white dishes. For a no-electricity meal chefs wore headlamps and cooked in a wood-fired mobile pizza oven. ft33dallas.com
Bulgari Hotel | Milan
A dish by René Redzepi
Andrea Petrini’s Epicurea series, which just concluded its second season, brings some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary chefs to cook in Milan for a couple of nights at a time. New York chef Danny Bowien (of Mission Chinese) kicked off the series in January René Redzepi (of Copenhagen’s Noma) passed through in June. bulgarihotels.com/en-us/milan/the-hotel/overview
Fulgurances | Paris
This fall the three young partners behind Fulgurances—a food-event organizer/food-culture-magazine publisher—will open a restaurant as a springboard for promising chefs. Kitchen lieutenants eager to launch their own place will get a risk-free platform for six months, with staff and décor in place. First up: Chloé Charles, sous-chef for the last two years at Paris hot spot Septime. fulgurances.com
Ikarus | Salzburg, Austria
Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz pioneered the revolving chef concept when he transformed an airplane hangar into Ikarus, a restaurant that for the last 12 years has highlighted a different star chef’s food every month. Chefs invited to contribute a menu spend a few days on site ensuring the food—executed by the Ikarus team—is just as it should be. The Restaurant at Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow is on deck for October. hangar-7.com/en/ikarus
The Table By | Madrid
A dish from San Sebastián’s A Fuego Negro
Spain’s first revolving-chef restaurant opened last year in Madrid’s Hotel URSO, with menu and décor changing every few weeks. The seasonal venture, open September-June, brings in chefs and their teams from across the country, offering acclaimed restaurants elsewhere access to a capital-city audience. thetableby.es
Carousel | London
Four veterans of London’s pop-up dining scene launched the city’s first guest-chef restaurant last year, inviting up-and-comers from around the world to cook for a week or two at a time. The well-priced evening meals have a dinner-party vibe, with communal seating. So far they’ve served modern Spanish and Mexi-Asian, among other cuisines. carousel-london.com
Chefs Club by Food & Wine | New York
Chefs Club by Food & Wine
Every year, four of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” are chosen to contribute dishes to the menu here, with culinary director Didier Elena filling out the rest. In the Studio, a more intimate space in the back of the restaurant, visiting chefs rotate through, cooking a few nights a week. chefsclub.com/new-york
Intro | Chicago
Last fall restaurateur Rich Melman transformed high-end L20 into an incubator for talent, highlighting a new chef every three months. Mr. Melman and his team share their experience—and profits—and offer free ongoing consulting when alumni move on. Erik Anderson, who just concluded his residency, is working on his own project in Minneapolis. Now at the stove: Aaron Martinez. introchicago.com
The Restaurant at Meadowood | St. Helena, Calif.
Christopher Kostow and Grant Achatz plating food.
Christopher Kostow’s annual 12 Days of Christmas guest dinner series—now in its eighth year—has become one of the most prestigious invitations for a traveling chef. The roster of heavy hitters last year included top chefs from Belgium, France and Peru. This year’s lineup will be announced on August 5. meadowood.com/dining
Momofuku Ssam Bar | New York
The occasional guest-chef dinners held at this raucous restaurant are served family style at a long communal table, with loud music and free-flowing alcohol keeping the energy up. Originally targeting a restaurant-industry crowd—with only late-night seatings at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.—the hours have now been expanded to include the whole night. momofuku.com/new-york/ssam-bar
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Chef Omar Tate’s Plans for Philly Go Well Beyond Food
This story starts the way every story must start in this day, this age. Restaurant stories in particular, but really, every single story of any kind. It’s a disaster story. A love story. A food story. It’s about memory and family, fame and power, collard greens and potato salad. And it begins in a penthouse on Wall Street, Manhattan, USA, high above a site where, once upon a time, grain and oysters and Black people were bought and sold.
[New York, New York]
It starts in March. Early March 2020 — which, as we all know now, is a very different place than mid-March will be, or late March. It starts at the end of a certain kind of world.
Partnering with a company called Resident, chef Omar Tate was cooking a series of well-attended high-end dinners for groups of 10 or 20 at a time. They happened in luxury apartments on the Upper West Side, in Brooklyn, wherever. The series was called Honeysuckle Pop-Up, and he was getting $150 a head for “New York Oysters” with thyme and cream, smoked turkey neck over beans (a dish named after the MOVE bombings, dubbed “Smoked Turkey Necks in 1980s Philadelphia”), roasted yams inspired by that scene in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, buttermilk-fried rabbit (which he called “Bre’r Rabbit”), and a course named “Remnants on a South Philly Stoop” — crab, sunflower seeds, charred lemon and garlic powder. There was Kool-Aid (his version) on every table, and ice cream for dessert, flavored with honeysuckle.
Omar had curated the art on the walls, the music coming out of the speakers. Every menu was deeply personal, deeply historic, and came “from a distinctly Black perspective.” He’d handwritten poems to guide people through the biographical experience of dining at Honeysuckle, in this pocket universe of Kool-Aid and collard greens he created in borrowed spaces. It was part dinner, part theater, and around the time he’d moved the Omar Tate Show to the Wall Street space — to an apartment overlooking the former location of one of Manhattan’s most notorious slave markets — he was publishing, speaking, meeting people. The New York Times was writing about him, and he was starting to work on a project with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He was hustling. He was right on the verge of blowing up.
But instead, everything else did.
Esquire, April 30, 2020
Honeysuckle was real. It was peaking as an event and as a philosophy. I had been adding to the conversation of power shifting. I was rubbing elbows with “important people” on the outside. Inside I was rubbing sticks together for fire. I was behind on my rent and living contract to contract. When the pandemic hit, I lost all income that was projected for the next six months with little left to stand on. I entered March with about two thousand dollars in my bank account wondering what my future was to be. The important conversations with all of the important people don’t seem to matter much anymore.
— Omar Tate
On the phone, I ask Omar how he got started. How he ended up cooking.
I tell him, “Some people choose cooking, I know. They love it young. They go to school or whatever.”
“And there’s this … this narrative about growing up watching your mother cook or your grandmother cook and falling in love with it.”
“That’s the sort of traditional arc of the chef story, right? But so much of the time, it’s just such utter bullshit.”
Because sometimes (a lot of the time), people don’t choose kitchens. They just end up there. It’s circumstance. Willingness. A lack of any other viable options. Sometimes it’s luck. Restaurant work, hotel work, at a certain level, it’s a meat grinder. It takes people in, chews them up, and spits them out again. And the machine always needs fresh bodies.
Omar laughs. “I was a drug dealer, but I was really bad at that. So I was looking for work. My first real job, I was 17. I was a porter at the Philadelphia Marriott. I worked overnights at the Rittenhouse Hotel.” Those weren’t cooking jobs, but they were service jobs — washing dishes, scrubbing the stainless, deep-cleaning. He was in the kitchens, even if he wasn’t on the line. “And that proximity to kitchens allowed me to lie on my résumé and say I could cook.”
He had a choice: There was a job at the Crowne Plaza, doing the same thing he was doing, for $12 an hour. And there was a job at the RiverCrest Golf Club and Preserve, as a cook, for $10. The Crowne was on City Avenue. The RiverCrest was in Phoenixville, two and a half hours away by public transit.
“I chose the cook’s job because the journey of going from a cook to a chef was something I could envision. That I could define.” Plus, Omar had a son, Bashir, who was 10 months old then. He thought that cooking was something he could teach the kid someday — was a skill beyond making the stainless shine. He thought cooking was a path to being able to pay the bills, to sending Bashir to college someday. Omar had plans.
So he chose kitchens. He chose the kitchen because the kitchen was where he already was and where he could see himself. Because the kitchen was a story that he already knew the bones of, and with a little hustle, a bus pass and a few small lies, he thought he could slide himself inside without anyone noticing.
Omar Tate preparing pies at South in Fairmount. Photograph by Marcus Maddox
Omar wrote his last New York Honeysuckle menu in February. It was 10 courses, eight of them inspired by song or album titles. (The last two were desserts.)
The gig at the NMAAHC would’ve brought in enough to pay the bills, clear some debt, get even, maybe. The money would’ve buoyed him up for the season, kept Honeysuckle going.
But then March. Fucking March, right? Can you remember the moment? The one where everything turned upside down? Everyone has a story. Those of us who live will carry it with us forever.
“Once I realized the pandemic was real, all I could think about was my son. I was in Brooklyn. He was here. I pretty much immediately left my life, and I came home.”
[Phoenixville, Berwyn & Philadelphia]
“Shallot,” Omar says. “Fucking brunoise. I don’t know what either of those words means.”
Not now. He knows what they mean now. This is before. This is the 2000s, Phoenixville and Berwyn and Old City and Walnut Street.
“When I stepped into that space” — and he means kitchens, all kitchens back then, but the RiverCrest kitchen in particular — “I let my whole self go. I was assimilating. I listened to different music. I talked different. Yes, Chef, no, Chef.”
He didn’t know where anything was or where anything went. He didn’t know how to use any of the equipment. He didn’t understand the rhythms of the line, or the language spoken there. He had to make himself into a new character to fit into this story, and he did. Fourteen hours a day, five days a week — not counting the commute. He was only paid for 40 hours (a story as old as restaurants), he got screamed at, but he learned. Omar was born in Philly, raised in Philly, educated in Philly. Now he was going to be trained in Philly, too.
After the RiverCrest, he went to Berwyn. To Nectar, at the height of Nectar being Nectar — which means something to people who understand local restaurant history and maybe nothing at all to people who don’t.
“Two hundred twenty seats,” he says. “Four, five, six hundred covers on the weekends. Nothing but Land Rovers and Benzes out front every night.” He worked hot apps and grill under chef Patrick Feury.
“When I got to Nectar, I had my skills. I knew the names of things I knew what the equipment was.” He walked like a cook and talked like a cook and worked like a cook, but it wasn’t enough. Wouldn’t be enough, maybe ever. Because he was also a Black man cooking.
“The very first time I remember talking about food, I remember being in that kitchen.”
Talking about food meaning, you know, actually talking about food. Talking with other professionals. Sharing ideas. As a peer.
“I was making sausages. They were like Toulouse sausages, you know? And we’re all standing around tasting it, and Patrick comes over. I wanted to talk with him about it. And he takes a bite, and he goes … You know those old breakfast sausages? The frozen ones? They were cheap grocery-store shit. Called Brown ’N Serve?”
I tell him, “I know Brown ’N Serve.”
“Right. He says, ‘Tastes like Brown ’N Serve!’ And then he walks away.”
“And it’s like, I was trying to connect with you, man. I was trying to have a conversation that wasn’t, like, work-related. It was kind of crushing.”
And it would happen again. And again. And again.
At Fork (under a different Feury now — Terence this time), Omar worked garde-manger. He was cooking the staff meal one time, and he made potato salad. He made potato salad like he remembered his neighbors making. Block-party potato salad. “And he liked it, man! That was a big deal to me. That was huge.” But he asked what kind of potato salad it was. Where it came from. And Omar explained — told him how this was his Block-Party Potato Salad.
“I had to explain to him what that was,” Omar says, still a little disbelieving a decade later. “The fact that he even commented on it was strange. It was an exchange that was just condescending. That’s what that was.”
Because Omar Tate’s food was not allowed to be food under the definitions of a fine-dining kitchen. Because his lived experiences were not accepted as legitimate experiences. A thousand chefs have made motherfucking bank trading on their food memories. I’m one of them. But then, there, in that place and at that time, Omar’s were … invalid. They didn’t count.
“I had a duality, or even a tertiary existence in this world that I tried really hard to get into.”
He was a cook, sure. But first and foremost, he was a Black cook. That was what everyone saw.
[Wall Street — An Aside]
We’re talking about Honeysuckle, Omar and I. About what it was like there when everything was good. About what it meant. I ask him if it was weird, looking out over those tables covered in bean pie and biscuits, smoked squab with stew greens and salads inspired by Black chef and author Edna Lewis, and seeing all those white faces, all that corporate money.
Omar Tate’s end-of-summer tribute dinner to Black life in Philadelphia, a pop-up hosted at Plowshare Farms in Bucks County last year. Photograph by Ryan Collerd
Photograph by Ryan Collerd
Photograph by Ryan Collerd
He says yes, but no. No, but yes. Of course. Totally. And then he tells me a story.
This one night, he says, there was a woman who complained about the price tag: $150 a head, $300 a table. And for what? For Black food? For collard greens? The collards, in particular, seemed to really get under this woman’s skin.
And Omar explains. He says to me that the ingredients were foraged locally. The greens were from a local farm. He’d made the vinegar himself. He tells me all the steps he went through to make those collards — including how he learned to make collards, the research, the study.
He says, further, that the way these dinners work, he comes out onto the floor. He explains everything to his guests. So this woman, she had all the information that he just gave to me, and still she couldn’t see it. It didn’t matter that this was just one part of an eight-course meal cooked by a chef with nearly 20 years in the game. It didn’t matter that it was done with professional technique and deep concern. It didn’t matter that it meant something. This was Black food, and Black food, to her, was just worth inherently less than, say, French food. She felt cheated. Nothing ever changes.
But Omar says it didn’t matter. It stung, of course. But it didn’t matter. That woman? She’d shown up. She’d paid. She’d had the experience that Omar wanted to give her.
“Whether she liked it or didn’t, I still won.”
[Philadelphia & New York]
At Fork, Omar had a rough time. After months, he was still on the garde-manger station. “He wasn’t never moving me off garde-manger,” he tells me. “I wanted to use hot shit. I wanted to learn something new.” So Omar demoted himself. He volunteered to do the breakfast-and-brunch shift — and in the restaurant world, no one wants to do the brunch shift. That’s the worst gig. A punishment assignment.
And it sucked because of course it sucked. It’s not even something we talk about, because it isn’t something we have to talk about. He would come in, do prep, cook through the service. At some point every morning, Terence would come in. “He’d ask me to make him an omelet, then throw it away and tell me it was shit. I got really good at making fucking omelets, man. They were like paper.”
We laugh about it, because these stories? They’re not all bad stories. Cooking, at a certain point in every serious chef’s career, becomes like something out of a kung fu movie. There’s a moment (or multiple moments) where the aged kung fu master just hits his fucking apprentice over and over and over again with a stick, where he tells the apprentice that he’s shit and will never amount to anything, that he can’t learn, won’t learn, is incapable of learning and should just quit. Give up. Go home.
But the apprentice doesn’t quit. The apprentice gets better. He becomes unstoppable. He surpasses his master and goes on to avenge his family or defeat the evil wizard or whatever has to happen next.
“They’re kitchens,” Omar says. “It’s not like the story ends with and then I went to HR. As terrible and toxic as kitchens are sometimes, I have no regrets.”
After Fork, Omar was a tournant and saucier at Farmer’s Cabinet. He cooked for Andrew Wood at Russet, worked at Buddakan, staged at Le Bec Fin under Nick Elmi.
He went to New York in January of 2013 because that’s what young chefs do. Like a rite of passage: leaving the nest, the hometown, heading out into the world to seek your fortune. He bounced around, working wherever he could, in whatever kitchens he could find — a little Italian here, a little Spanish there, bakeries, cafes. He was learning, honing his craft, but at the same time, he was looking for something.
I’m not sure if he knew what it was then. I don’t think he was sure, either — not in any specific terms. But it started with the looking.
The looking was what was important.
[At Home, in West Philly]
When COVID hit, Omar went home — back to his mom’s house in Mantua. She’s an essential health-care worker, working with people with mental health Issues, and he moved into a spare room. He had a bookcase and a mattress, the clothes on his back, not much else. When he said he looked at his life in New York and just walked away, he walked away. Just turned on his heel and left it all behind. When he got here, he took a job delivering for Caviar.
From Wall Street to your doorstep, just like that. From the New York Times and the James Beard House to an empty bedroom and counting up his tips at the end of the night. To him, the Caviar job wasn’t a lot different from what he’d been doing. “I was in service to people,” he tells me. “I’ve been conditioned to do that for more than half my life.”
Instagram, March 28, 2020
I went out for a cup of coffee today
A risk for a bitter taste of normalcy
I was told that there was no more
That’s when I knew life would never
be the same ever again
— “Styrofoam,” by Omar Tate
The conversations, phone calls, emails, texts are sporadic, come in bursts. I’d told Omar when we started all this that I wasn’t really doing an interview — that none of this was an interview — but that I just wanted to talk. The ’rona has fucked up everything. How we work, how we communicate. The isolation that everyone was feeling? It was a part of this, so that when we would connect, our conversations were like loud music heard from a passing car, like finding someone else’s photographs scattered on the bar. The conversations are interruptions in the grind of quarantine, of pandemic precaution. Windows looking out on someone else’s yard. And the story, whatever it was going to be, would just come together. We’d will it into being, together.
“I’ve never been afraid of taking a step back,” Omar says to me one afternoon when we’re talking about something else entirely. About comics, maybe. Or kitchens. Asshole chefs and their asshole ways. About menus.
And then one day, Omar just goes dark. Stops responding for a week, week and a half. It’s nothing at first. Things are busy. Things are weird, because they’re always weird now. I send a couple of emails, hear nothing back, send a couple more — cool, casual, but fuzzy with a kind of background panic. A frisson of stress.
TUESDAY 7/31/2020, 10:21 P.M.
Just checking in. Making sure I didn’t weird you out with that long email the other night. I figure you’re busy, but I just wanted to make sure that a) you saw the last email, and b) I didn’t scare you off. Let me know what’s up.
WEDNESDAY 8/5/2020, 3:08 P.M.
Got any time to talk today or tomorrow? I just cleared a couple deadlines, so I’m pretty wide open at the moment.
And I’m thinking, Did I do something wrong? Say something wrong? Because I’m bad with people sometimes. I assume there’s more of a connection than there actually is. I talk too much. I’m too coarse. And this distance? These phone calls — these removes made necessary by pestilence and plague? Fuck.
TUESDAY 8/11/2020, 11:37 a.m.
If you have any time today, I’m pretty much wide open. Failing that, how about tomorrow sometime between noon and 3 p.m.? My deadline on this piece is the 15th. I can probably beg a couple extra days if I have to, but things are starting to get a little tight.
Plus, this is fraught, right? I mean, let’s be honest here. This is 2020, and I’m the white food writer in a largely Black city talking to a man whose food — whose entire reason for cooking — is rooted in the one thing about him I can never understand no matter how much we talk (or don’t), no matter how much he writes (or doesn’t). And I will never capture from him (borrow from him, tease out of him) an nth of what that experience is.
“I get a different kind of news,” Omar wrote in a piece for Esquire in April. It was a refrain, a motif, a well he returned to again and again in order to capture what living in his skin is like. When he talks about his uncle dying of COVID — 77 years old and already in the hospital because of complications from diabetes. I get a different kind of news. When he tells me about his cousin and his cousin’s drama with unpaid child-support payments and how that happened and why that happened and then says, “I could spend a year trying to explain his situation to you and you wouldn’t understand.” I get a different kind of news.
And all of that just means that the world is coming at him from a different angle, on a different wavelength, that I am never going to see. It means that our consensual reality really ain’t all that consensual, right?
The Next Morning
I get a text from Omar:
Hey Jason, sorry about that. This week was just not a great week for work stuff. I don’t remember if I told you but I got married yesterday.
[New York, Bucks County, Orangeburg & South Carolina]
In New York, Omar was doing research. While he was working, while he was paying the bills, doing 14-, 16-, 18-hour shifts and trying to hold things together with both hands, he was studying, searching. And the thing he was looking for was himself.
No, that’s not poetry. That’s not cleverness. That’s truth. He was looking to find pieces of himself on plates, in menus. But before he could find that (or not find that), he had to learn how to recognize it.
“I open myself up to possibilities because I don’t fucking know shit. I don’t.”
On the phone, Omar is telling me about research. He says, “I went to this museum and told the librarian I wanted to know about Black food and Black culture and Black life. And she gave me, like, 80 books. She just loaded up a dumbwaiter and dropped it on me.”
A collection of Omar Tate’s books that inform his Honeysuckle Pop-Up menus. Photograph by Marcus Maddox
He’s telling me about Edna Lewis and Zora Neale Hurston. About J.J. Johnson, who opened the Cecil in Harlem in 2013, doing Afro-Asian fusion, and for whom Omar would go to work when Johnson went to the Henry at the Life Hotel in Manhattan to cook the cuisine of the African diaspora with an Asian accent.
“Fundamentally, it was the same,” he says of the experience — of the kitchen and its rhythms, “but it was also different. He would put bird’s-eye chilies in the mirepoix.” Which might seem like a little thing unless you’ve been a chef, been trained French, had the French canon and French technique beaten into you every day of your life, because then, messing with the mirepoix? That’s a signifier. A magnesium signal flare denoting a point of unmistakable departure. The huge-est thing in the world. Pete Wells reviewed the Henry for the Times and gave it one star.
But Omar’s head was already in a different place. He was traveling all over the South. He went to South Carolina and found the names of his enslaved ancestors written in the records of the Orangeburg Presbyterian Church — their given first names and then their master’s last name written next to them, in parentheses: Jamison.
Jamison was a physician, Omar tells me. He lived in Bucks County: “Then he moved to South Carolina and enslaved my family.”
Omar went there, to the property that Jamison owned in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He walked on the ground his ancestors walked. And it’s just woods now. Weeds. “But I found the gravesite of the family that owned my people.”
Omar’s mother’s and father’s families were both in Orangeburg as slaves. Three hundred years later, his mom and dad met in South Philly and made Omar, who would later walk in Orangeburg and go back to Manhattan and realize that what was missing on all those plates, on all those menus, was a representation of him.
He emails me: I felt that there was no representation of my Black life in food. In searches prior to my pursuit of Honeysuckle I found all of the Black representations in fine dining or that arena to be Southern or West Indian. I felt like I had no place as a Black person from the North.
Honeysuckle would fix that.
Remnants on a South Philly Stoop, Honeysuckle Pop-Up at Craft New York City, May 2019
The professional kitchen has been home to me for at least a third of my life. Unfortunately, that home has not loved me or people who [come] from where I come from as much as I loved it. I wanted to create a dish that represented my life, my family, and my environment. I am not a farmer, my parents didn’t have money or own a restaurant, I did not stand by my grandmother’s side while she made Sunday supper. I’m not African or West Indian or anything else. When people ask me where I’m from, I respond I’m from Philly. This dish represents the migration of my family from their home in Charleston, SC, ninety years ago to Philadelphia. Philadelphia where the crab man on the corner still exists, where we sit on the stoop or porch and chew on salted sunflower seeds in the summer and spit out the shells. Where we season our shit with old bay and garlic powder. In Philly where we still read the oldest black newspaper in the country, the Philadelphia Tribune. It’s all on this plate. Deviled blue and snow crab, candied charred lemon, fried parsley, sunflower seed purée, toasted sunflower seeds, handmade garlic powder, and handmade old bay.
— Omar Tate, via Instagram
“You got married! Congratulations, man!”
“Thanks,” Omar says, laughing.
So he tells me. Her name is Cybille St. Aude, and she’s a chef, too. From Long Island. She writes children’s books, cooks Haitian food, co-founded Earthseed Provisions in New York. The wedding “was planned for maybe two months, but it’s COVID, so … ”
So it became a small thing, a double party split between their families in Philly and on Long Island, and they’d spent the week bouncing back and forth.
“We’ve known each other for six months,” he says. “It was love at first sight. And with COVID happening, every day is like a year, so in June we said fuck it. Let’s do it.”
[Bushwick & the Italian Market]
Omar started doing pop-ups while he was still working at the Henry. The first official Honeysuckle dinner happened in November of 2018, in Bushwick. Then came one at Cristina Martinez’s El Compadre here in the Italian Market.
The menu was personal, intellectual, recursively self-referential, fragmentary in the way a poem can be, like little flashes of connection to time and history. Red Kool-Aid like the kind Omar mixed up as a kid in his mother’s kitchen for family dinners. Beef tartare masked in black squid ink, inspired by Clorindy: The Origin of the Cake Walk — the first Broadway show with an all-Black cast, conceived by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Will Marion Cook over a meal of beef, bell peppers and beer and performed (partially) in blackface. Roasted yams grown from heritage seeds that came, unadulterated, across time from the antebellum South and across distance from Manning, South Carolina. (Omar drove 36 hours, round-trip, on his days off from the Henry just to pick the sweet potatoes up from a friend he’d made while traveling.) The grilled whiting was a riff on his mom’s recipe for fried fish (he called it “Un-Fried Fish”), and a biscuit with sorghum molasses butter and damson preserves was named for his great-great-aunt Ella, who lived in South Carolina and died at 105. Omar never met her, but he knew her. He knew the stories. The history.
Omar tells me, “A recipe is just a recipe. But if you look close at it, there’s a story between the lines. The story of how I got here is the food I want to make.”
In 2019, the Henry closed. Omar had already been doing his Honeysuckle dinners on the side, but now he threw himself into it full-time. He signed on with Resident, which, according to the company website, provided “bespoke culinary experiences in unique residential spaces … [that] bring inspiring chefs and curious epicureans together.” That language sounds laughably arch now. Dated. Stuffy in a top-hats-and-ascots way that’s borderline discomforting — like it was a business built to serve only the Monopoly Man and his robber-baron friends.
Doubly so because even back in 2019, the beginnings of this story and the end of that world were already lurking. The pieces of it were being put in place. Coronavirus was like a future date crossed out on a calendar, so far away until suddenly it’s right on top of you. And the roots of that last Wall Street dinner existed in the first Honeysuckle pop-up — its end already written into its beginnings.
“A recipe is just a recipe,” Omar says. “But if you look close at it, there’s a story between the lines. The story of how I got here is the food I want to make.”
There is another world where the pandemic never happened. An alternate dimension where Trump and lockdowns and midnight sirens and 180,000 dead are not our history, our reality. Where Omar Tate’s Honeysuckle pop-up went its way, growing and building. Where he met all the right people, did his gig at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, stayed in Brooklyn, became a success, continued shifting the conversation about food and Blackness at $300 a table.
But in that world, we don’t have this world — the one where Omar came home, married Cybille, started doing his pop-ups out of South Philly Barbacoa for neighbors and friends — smoked lamb marinated in palm oil, chowchow, fried okra and oysters, spring salads topped with snow crab and lemon, whole perch stuffed with callaloo. His menus are all-in for 40 bucks now. They’re meant to feed multitudes.
When we talk about it, he tells me this was always part of the plan. That he always intended to come home and bring Honeysuckle with him. He’d been thinking about it even before coronavirus. He’d been talking with Andrew Wood, was thinking about moving it permanently into the old Russet space, was thinking about lots of things.
“I was putting things in place,” he says. “Talking to people. I would’ve been pollinating the whole country with Honeysuckle. Then the pandemic happened,” he says, laughs. “That changed things.”
So now, he has the weekly pop-up in South Philly. Just before he got married, he launched an ambitious GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Honeysuckle Community Center — his vision for the future. A combination grocery store, meat market, cafe/library and supper club.
“I’m using the word ‘community center’ because I want it to be about social activation. Food-focused, but I want to be able to hit people in the community at every single economic level.” To bring fresh groceries to Philly’s food-desert neighborhoods, to offer quick, affordable lunches in the cafe, to bring in artists and writers to speak to the people, and then do Honeysuckle-style dinners at the supper club that will bring some of that big money back to his neighborhood.
“I was never interested in opening a traditional restaurant,” he explains. “Because traditional restaurants have not historically served the community — particularly the Black community.”
The GoFundMe is rolling. It had brought in just shy of $63,000 on the last morning we talked — shouting at each other and dropping calls while Omar walked around Esposito’s market, scoring a great deal on chicken for the Haitian/French Creole dinner he was doing that night at South Philly Barbacoa with Cybille. His goal is $250,000, which will be enough for him to buy a space for the community center. Enough to own it outright.
“The most important thing for me is to own the space,” he tells me. “Because that’s the whole thing. Black people don’t own their own spaces.” Which is also why he turned to a funding platform. His original thought had been to do it all himself — to go city to city, hustling. Selling bean pies. Cooking meals to raise funds and raise awareness. Logistics killed that plan. COVID killed it. “It was too much. There’s not enough Omars to do everything I need to do. People want to help me, but I have no money. No money, no space, no nothing. I’m in this weird gray area. It’s like, I don’t want to have someone come and cook with me and then not be able to pay them a wage. That’s not right. I have all the thank-you dollars in the world, but that’s all I got.”
So at home, in Philly, he has the GoFundMe, which, now, he thinks was the right choice. Sixty grand in the first two weeks? It’s hard to argue with that. And it brings the community together so that “we can all own a little piece of it.”
Which, ultimately, is the victory that comes out of all this. The happy ending in this darkest timeline. Out of years of hustle, insults and shame, of potato salad, collard greens and Kool-Aid, of graves and slaves, pandemic and plague, comes hope. A fresh start. A future for himself, his community, his family.
“It’s never been about me,” Omar says. “It is about and of Black culture first, period. It is about Black people. It’s about legacy. It’s about pushing forward. I look at Black history as a written record by Black people primarily over the last 120 years. Before that, our history was recorded by other people, or it was destroyed. I want people a hundred years from now to look at this as a building block.”
“I want Bashir to say, ‘Man, we’re doing something important. This matters.’”
Published as “Remnants on a South Philly Stoop” in the October 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Inside the Point, Southwest’s New Attraction for Waterfront Views and Crab Dip Doughnuts
Knowing full well the D.C. market goes wild for Maryland crab, the Point executive chef Benjamin Lambert wanted to use the Chesapeake product in a couple ways he hadn’t tried before over a career that includes stops under big-name chefs in New York, Baltimore, and the District.
At the anticipated grill, which opens for dinner with a limited menu tonight (Wednesday, April 14) in a riverside section of Southwest, Lambert is serving seafood dishes as simple as peel-and-eat shrimp and as novel as buttery, savory doughnuts that have been lightened up with potato starch, piped full of crab dip, and dusted in Old Bay seasoning. Lambert’s new recipe for roasted oysters calls for breadcrumbs and a compound butter he makes with miso, crab meat, and a reduced crab stock he says has “a super intense flavor.”
“We’re just trying to put [the restaurant] in the category of, we want you to come and eat here every day,” Lambert says. “We have some complex dishes, we have some really simple dishes, and we have something in the middle.”
The point’s savory doughnuts are stuffed with crab dip and coated in Old Bay John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
The Point (2100 Second Street SW) comes from Fish & Fire Food Group, the parent company for Ivy City Tavern, Georgetown standbys Tony and Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill, and sustainable seafood purveyor ProFish. Its arrival on the ground level of an apartment building that used to house the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters immediately boosts the restaurant scene for Buzzard Point. The neighborhood developing around D.C.’s pro soccer stadium contains a stretch of waterfront that connects the Wharf development to Navy Yard. The massive restaurant space includes room for 280 indoor seats at full capacity — or 70 diners during the current 25-percent cap — and a patio with room for 140 people that overlooks the tip of the land where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet.
“It’s probably one of the better views you can get in the city,” Lambert says. “It’s so calm and peaceful down here.”
The Point’s massive dining room has space for 70 people at 25 percent capacity John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
The leadup to opening came with one big curveball for Lambert and his staff. Last Friday, DC Fire responded to flames inside a restaurant storage room that triggered sprinklers and an alarm. A representative for the Point says the fire did not originate from the restaurant kitchen, but plans to unveil a wood-burning hearth are on hold for a couple weeks. In the meantime, Lambert’s team will grill off items like whole branzino, Ora King Salmon, dry-aged ribeye, and smoked spareribs on a gas-powered rig that’s in place for catering events.
The patio at the Point overlooks the waterfront tip where the Potomac and Anacostia rivers meet John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
The Point’s wood-burning grill and oven won’t be in action during its first few weeks John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
Lambert says he learned his way around a wood-fired grill when he opened Michael Mina’s now-closed Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons in Baltimore. In D.C., he worked with Nora Pouillon as chef de cuisine at pioneering organic eatery Restaurant Nora, led the kitchen at posh 701 Restaurant downtown, and opened District Winery in Navy Yard.
One dish he’s excited to serve once the hearth is in play is a cauliflower shawarma he prepares by pickling the whole head, adding a tahini-based marinade and shawarma spices, roasting the vegetable until it’s caramelized, then serving it with pink lentil-cashew hummus, tzatziki, and pita.
The Point’s cauliflower shawarma with lentil-cashew hummus John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
Another he’s developed over the years is a version of duck breast “burnt ends” he makes with a marinade of soy, honey, and plum jam.
“It gets really sweet and acidic and sticky on the duck,” Lambert says. “All you see is the black on top of it, so it reminded me of burnt ends.”
Lambert uses the leftover duck legs to make a sausage that’s part of a fresh agnolotti pasta dish stuffed with a filling made from fontina cheese, celery root, and pears. That gets served in a sauce that contains cultured butter whey, pickled pears, and basil oil. There’s also Prince Edward Island mussels in a coconut kimchi broth and a cobia crudo with strawberry leche de tigre sauce, but diners looking for more common options will find fried calamari, fish and chips, and jumbo lump crabcake sandwiches.
Eventually, the Point will also introduce a sushi bar to show off the freshest catch from ProFish. Beside the Point, an accompanying market selling boardwalk-style snacks like fried shrimp rolls and soft-serve ice cream to go, will open at a later date.
A sushi bar inside the Point will open at a later date John Rorapaugh/Leading DC
"I can quickly break it down to you—how we've gotten to where we are at right now," Alvin Cailan, the L.A.-based Filipino American chef and owner of Eggslut, says. He's talking about the way Filipino dishes, like chicken adobo flavored with bright calamansi juice and cane vinegar (see the recipe), are appearing at critically acclaimed restaurants across the country.
Diners are becoming more familiar with the complex flavors of the Philippines, a nation of more than 7,100 islands with historical influences from Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Spain and the United States. They're craving lumpia (spring rolls), kinilaw (ceviche) and sisig (a sizzling platter of chopped pork amped up with acid and heat) from restaurants like Bad Saint in Washington, D.C., LASA and RiceBar in Los Angeles, and Chefs Club in New York, where Cailan, who is also writing a Filipino cookbook, will host a pop-up called Amboy this summer.
"Reagan gave us political asylum to come to America in the early 80s," Cailan says, and some of the children of those immigrants (and others who came through a series of waves of immigration) went into the culinary field. "We [were] a bunch of junior sous-chefs . . . for the Wolfgangs, the Jean-Georges, the Charlie Trotters." Fifteen years later, "we're all executive chef level, but there's no Filipino restaurant to be an executive chef for. . . . So where do we go now? Do we pursue Filipino food?"
Octopus sinigang is made tart with rhubarb at LASA in Los Angeles. | Photo:Oriana Koren
The answer is decidedly, yes. Take Charles Olalia of RiceBar, who serves heritage rice from small producers in the Philippines, and tops it with house-made spicy longganisa sausage brothers Chad and Chase Valencia at LASA or Tom Cunanan at Bad Saint. "These people are giving up their careers to Filipino food," Cailan adds, and diners are reaping the benefits.
A generation ago, that was a risk. When Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan planned to open a restaurant in Manhattan in the mid-1990s, they were met with criticism. "One well-known food writer (who had great respect for Romy's palate) told us, 'Please do not do Filipino food. No one will go to your restaurant!'" Besa recalls. "We were aghast to hear that, but then she said, 'Do Romy's food, then people will come.'" For the pair, who now own the acclaimed Purple Yam in Brooklyn (and Manila), that translates to blending new American techniques and local produce with dishes from the Philippines and other Southeast and East Asian countries.
Today, opening a strictly Filipino restaurant is increasingly a sure thing. When Cailan heard the Valencia brothers, who started LASA as a periodic Filipino supper club, were looking for a space, he offered them the first residency in his incubator, Unit 120, in L.A.'s Chinatown. The duo opened for dinner on the weekends. "If they made money, they'd pay me rent. If they didn't," Cailan told them he'd "take care of the cost." Six months in, the LASA team managed to save enough money to take over the lease from Cailan, who is moving his incubator to a space nearby this summer.
But as the Filipino restaurant movement comes of age, these chefs and restaurant owners face certain challenges. For one, how do they make the cuisine accessible while preserving tradition? "We're still convincing people what Filipino food is," Chase says.
It requires "stepping up and being thoughtful of what you put on the table, bringing in education," says Natalia Roxas-Alvarez of Filipino Kitchen, a website and organization that promotes Filipino cuisine through recipes and events.
At Bad Saint, that means calling all dishes by their names in Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines. "They know how to present food unapologetically to their audiences," Roxas says of the red-hot restaurant. After a few visits, diners "throw around the words, too," Genevieve Villamora, who co-owns the restaurant, says. Olalia at RiceBar felt the same way writing his menu. "When we opened, we kind of told ourselves it would be a long road of education." The idea is for dishes like sinigang, a sour soup, to become as familiar to diners as carne asada or nam prik, the restaurant owners explain.
At Purple Yam in Brooklyn, Dorotan serves dishes rarely found in restaurants, like a charred eggplant salad made with a smoky coconut sauce. He also introduces diners to lesser-known ingredients, like bitter melon.
While education is a focus, none of the chefs are held back by tradition—perhaps in part because pinpointing one "traditional" version of a dish within such a regionalized cuisine is near impossible. "What we grew up with is our reference point, but we don't stick with [that as] our boundary," Chad, who blends in a California approach to his cooking, explains.
As Bad Saint's Villamora puts it, "The foundation of our menu is always what's traditional, but we're always pushing ourselves to redefine what's traditional."
Clams are cooked with Chinese sausage at Bad Saint in Washington D.C. | Photo: Farrah Skeiky
Many of these chefs are working to explore that together. Next month, as part of the L.A. Times' Food Bowl, Cailan will host Filipino Food Fridays he'll collaborate with chefs like Isa Fabro for a dessert night and host yet-to-be-named chefs for a lechón, or roast pig, festival. He also hopes to bring together Bad Saint's Cunanan, the Valencia brothers, Besa and Dotoran, and Sheldon Simeon from Tin Roof in Maui for a special dinner at Chefs Club this summer.
These chefs are working together to create something long lasting, Chase explains. "That's one thing Alvin and I talk about. Last year was our coming-out party. . . . Now we have to not be a trend but be places people actually go to," he says. "That's going to keep us alive. These guys are here to make something meaningful and timeless."
How Heart of Dinner Is Bringing Lunar New Year to Seniors in Need
Familiar dishes, handwritten notes and thoughtful planning make this organization more important than ever to the Asian American community in New York City.
Update (February 18, 2021 originally published February 9, 2021): Heart of Dinner is participating in a grassroots initiative called #EnoughIsEnough . Spearheaded by Eric Sze of 886 , the campaign is fundraising to provide meals for underserved Black, Latino and Asian American communities. Donors will receive a link to a set of virtual Lunar Banquet cooking classes, to take place on February 22, via Kitchen Rodeo with restaurateurs and chefs like Sze, Moonlynn Tsai, Yin Chang, Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen , Sahra Nguyen of Nguyen Coffee Supply and more. You can learn more about and donate to the initiative here .
Photo by: Photo courtesy of Heart of Dinner
Photo courtesy of Heart of Dinner
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit New York last March, the city came to a halt. Grocery stores became places of panic, restaurants shuttered and Chinatown became a ghost town. Foot traffic in the neighborhood plunged – right around what would normally be the busiest and most profitable time of the year, Lunar New Year season.
Instead, Asian businesses suffered disproportionately, attacks against Asian Americans increased and anti-Asian rhetoric rose by 800%. This – on top of the indiscriminating threat of the virus, mounting food insecurity and isolation – made the Asian American pandemic experience uniquely harrowing.
It was in response to this crisis that partners in love and life, Yin Chang, an actor and founder-creative director of 88 Cups of Tea, and Moonlynn Tsai, restaurateur of Kopitiam, pivoted their supper club to bring relief to the community’s most vulnerable. In April 2020, Heart of Dinner served its first hot lunches to homebound Asian American elders in New York City. The organization is now a certified non-profit that currently serves hundreds of seniors in need.
“This all started because at the height of the pandemic, we were experiencing racism on the day-to-day, coupled with a lot of news on food insecurity, especially for seniors,” says Chang. “It was a very intimate, personal offense to us. A guttural reaction.”
Every Wednesday, care packages are delivered. Volunteers come bearing hand-decorated paper bags filled with an ever-changing assortment of restaurant-prepared hot lunches, fresh produce, bulk ingredients and pantry essentials. Lunches can include takeout boxes of mapo tofu and summer soba salad fish, mushrooms, potatoes and steamed bokchoy over a bed of white rice a hearty bowl of jook.
Hot lunches are paired with enough food to last a few days – fresh Chinese mustard greens, daikon, bitter melon, dragon fruit fresh-baked milk toast loaves and scallion buns packs of tofu boxes of Vitasoy soy milk that taste to me so sweetly of childhood.
The food in each bag is culturally specific – and adorned with illustrations and messages of love written in native languages, Chinese and Korean. Volunteers practice the strokes of characters trying to get them just right. In the imperfect, handmade décor is evidence of someone on the other side. It’s infused in the careful selection of the produce. And it’s most present in the weekly phone call to remind you to check your doorstep the next day, before the friendly visit of the volunteer delivery driver.
For Tsai and Chang, the packages are more than just meals. “When we bring on seniors, it’s for a while. It’s not a one-and-done. It’s important they have comfort and familiarity. They know they can rely on us – through snowstorms, holidays. Even during the peak of the pandemic.”
That thoughtfulness is critical. And the cultural specificity, sense of community and intimacy the care packages create can, quite plainly, be the difference between life and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named loneliness and social isolation serious public health risks, linked to a higher risk of premature death, especially for adults aged 50 and older, and only made worse by the pandemic. Among vulnerable older adults, the CDC cited that immigrant and minority populations were at an even greater risk of loneliness due to stressors that can increase social isolation, like language barriers and differences in community.
When tasked with putting together senior-friendly packages, Chang, Tsai and their network of restaurant partners, ask themselves: Is it nutritious? Low in sugar? Easy to open? Easy to eat? Enjoyable? Will it remind them of home?
Citing her own very vocal grandfather, Chang poses, “Is it something our grandparents would love? That’s why cultural specificity is important.”
Lunar New Year looks brighter this year. Ahead of the new moon, which blooms on February 12, Heart of Dinner’s volunteer coordinator, Christy Lau, works during her lunch breaks to instruct volunteers on how to decorate bags that celebrate the year of the Ox.
One volunteer, Helen, folds ox-shaped origami that carry happy wishes.
Chang explains the seniors tell them how much they look forward to receiving the handwritten notes. Some cut out the front of the bags and keep a collection. While the usual grand, in-person celebrations aren’t realistic this year, the gold- and red-painted bags hope to bring a taste of Lunar New Year festivity.
Photo by: Photo courtesy of Heart of Dinner
Photo courtesy of Heart of Dinner
This Wednesday, Heart of Dinner’s seniors will get, from chefs Yen Ngo and Hannah Wong of Van Da, a combination lunch of Banh Tet, a sticky rice cake with mungbean and pork belly wrapped in banana leaves, and Harvest Noodles, a dish that “represents wealth and prosperity for the new year,” comprised of rice noodles, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, duck egg omelette and chestnut.
From chefs Maiko Kyogoku and Emily Yuen of Bessou, a chicken nanban soba – matcha soba noodles in dashi broth with applewood smoked chicken. “It’s a riff on kamo nanban, which is a smoked duck soba noodle dish,” they explain. “Soba noodles are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve in Japanese culture (even though the Japanese celebrate the lunar new year and Chinese zodiac, the years’ end and beginnings follow the Gregorian calendar). Noodles symbolize longevity for the new year and it’s said that slurping the noodles without cutting the strands short will give you good luck for the year to come!”
And from chef Helen Nguyen of Saigon Social: egg noodles with shiitake, ginger, scallion, bokchoy and chicken.
Chang and Tsai go shopping on Tuesdays. And while much of what goes into the care packages is beholden to what they can find in Manhattan’s Chinatown, I ask what Lunar New Year desserts they’ll search for.
Oranges, surely. And traditional, lower-in-sugar sweets: nian gao (sweet rice cakes) wafer crackers sweet and sticky rice tangyuan (chewy rice balls) dan tat (Hong Kong-style egg custard tarts) and maybe Osmanthus Flower Jelly – a beautifully-scented dessert made of white mushrooms, goji berries, dates and flower petals – if they get lucky.
I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter
It was only my first day on the job as a cookbook ghostwriter, shadowing a top-flight chef, when the owner of a Chicago restaurant threw me out of the kitchen. I realized then that what had seemed like a dream job — helping restaurant chefs translate their culinary genius to the printed page — would hold more humiliations than I’d imagined.
Despite that inauspicious start, I wrote nine cookbooks and many other chefs’ projects over the next five years, some credited but most anonymous. Like many others in the nebulous profession called food writing, I was really a food ghost — one of the ink-stained (and grease-covered) wretches who actually produce most of the words that are attributed to chefs in cookbooks and food magazines and on Web sites.
Many real-world cooks have wondered at the output of authors like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver, who maintain cookbook production schedules that boggle the mind. Rachael Ray alone has published thousands of recipes in her cookbooks and magazine since 2005. How, you might ask, do they do it?
The answer: they don’t. The days when a celebrated chef might wait until the end of a distinguished career and spend years polishing the prose of the single volume that would represent his life’s work are gone. Recipes are product, and today’s successful cookbook authors are demons at providing it — usually, with the assistance of an army of writer-cooks.
“The team behind the face is invaluable,” said Wes Martin, a chef who has developed recipes for Ms. Ray and others. “How many times can one person invent a new quick pasta dish?”
Mr. Martin, and dozens of others like him, have a particular combination of cooking skills, ventriloquism and modesty that makes it possible not only to write in the voices of chefs, but to actually channel them as cooks.
“It’s like an out-of-body experience,” Mr. Martin said. “I know who I am as a chef, and I know who Rachael is, and those are two totally separate parts of my brain.”
Employing writers and recipe developers has long been routine chefs, after all, have their own specialized skills, and writers are not expected to be wizards in the kitchen.
Ghostwriting is common among business leaders, sports figures and celebrities. But the domesticity and intimacy of cooking make readers want to believe that the food they make has been personally created and tested — or at least tasted — by the face on the cover. And that isn’t always the case, especially for restaurant chefs.
Food ghostwriters come in many different flavors, including the researchers who might spend days testing every possible method of cooking beans for Bobby Flay, the aproned assistants at the Food Network who frantically document everything that the “talent” does on camera in order to produce recipes for the Web site, and the (slightly) more literary work of writers who attempt to document a chef’s ideas, memories and vision in glossy cookbooks.
The rank beginners might be thanked in the acknowledgments of a book the next step is being credited on the title page at the very top of the profession, their names appear on the book’s cover. But getting up that pole can be a slippery business.
In the 1990s, when I was in the trenches, American chefs were not the thoughtful liberal-arts graduates who permeate the profession today. The idea that a chef would start an avant-garde literary food magazine, as David Chang did last year create his own imprint at a publishing house, as Anthony Bourdain did or appear on “Charlie Rose,” as Sean Brock of the restaurants Husk and McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C., did last week, would have been laughable.
Many were brilliant and creative, and all were incredibly hardworking. But usually, nothing of the chef’s oeuvre had been written down except perhaps a master recipe for stock, designed for a trained kitchen staff and made in 40-gallon quantities.
Still, it did not matter if the chefs had no story to tell about why and what they were cooking: every last one of them wanted to publish a cookbook.
Andrew Friedman, who is currently writing with the chefs Michael White and Paul Liebrandt, said: “I’ve had chefs tear up reading the introduction to their own books. The job is to get them to the point where they verbalize their philosophy about food — even the ones who say they don’t have one.”
Years ago, there was a quaint trust among cookbook buyers that chefs personally wrote their books and tested their recipes, and a corresponding belief among chefs that to admit otherwise would mean giving someone else credit for the tiniest part of their work — unacceptable, in those macho and territorial times.
Today, in a content-driven media environment, the role of the writer is given far more respect, and many chefs do not pretend that they do their own writing. Last week, when Grand Central Publishing announced the acquisition of a big new cookbook by Daniel Boulud, the name of his “collaborator,” Sylvie Bigar, was featured in the news release.
In most cases, the job of a ghostwriter is to produce a credible book from the thin air of a chef’s mind and menu — to cajole and probe, to elicit ideas and anecdotes by any means necessary.
Five Weeknight Dishes
Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- This coconut fish and tomato bake from Yewande Komolafe yields a gorgeous, silky ginger-coconut sauce.
- This tasty recipe for sheet-pan chicken and potatoes by Lidey Heuck is really nice without being fussy.
- This vegetarian baked Alfredo pasta with broccoli rabe is inspired by pasta Alfredo, but with green vegetables added.
- Kay Chun adds asparagus and snap peas to this spring vegetable japchae in this vegan take on the classic dish.
- You could substitute chicken or another type of fish in this summery grilled salmon salad from Melissa Clark.
J. J. Goode, who wrote the just-released “A Girl and Her Pig” with April Bloomfield, describes the process as “25 percent writing and 75 percent dating.”
And although each project begins as a love affair, it rarely ends that way disillusion is part of the job.
“In every book, there’s a point where you just can’t stand the sight of each other,” a veteran writer said.
In his first assignment, another writer I know had to produce a book on Japanese cuisine based on two interviews with a chef who spoke no English.
“That,” he said, “was the moment that I realized cookbooks were not authoritative.”
“Write up something about all the kinds of chiles,” one Mexican-American chef demanded of me, providing no further details. “There should be a really solid guide to poultry,” a barbecue maven prescribed for his own forthcoming book. (After much stalling, he sent the writer a link to the Wikipedia page for “chicken.”)
At the most extreme level, a few highly paid ghostwriter-cooks actually produce entire books, from soup to nuts, using a kind of mind-meld that makes it possible not only to write in the voice of another human but actually to cook in his or her style — or close enough. One recent best-selling tome on regional cooking was produced entirely in a New York apartment kitchen, with almost no input from the author.
“Those are the cases where you are pretty sure the chef never even reads the book,” the writer said. Another ghost told me that sometimes the only direct input he gets for one chef’s books is a list of flavor combinations.
(The authors most likely to write and thoroughly test their own work are trained cooks who do not work in restaurants, like Molly Stevens, Deborah Madison and Grace Young, and obsessive hobbyist cooks like Jennifer McLagan and Barbara Kafka.)
Some chefs have great respect for the work of a writer.
“It’s not easy to find a good one,” said Mr. Flay, a chef who has worked with many writers, including me. “They have to put their ego in their pockets.”
“I consider myself an ‘author,’ in quotes, but not a writer,” Mr. Flay said. “I have skills in the kitchen, but the writers keep the project on track, meet the deadlines, make the editor happy.”
He added: “I know a lot of chefs who write their first book themselves. Then they say ‘I’ll never do that again.’ It’s just not worth it.”
But for other chefs, a writer-for-hire has about the same status as a personal trainer the relationship is friendly but not always mutually respectful. I was frequently stood up, always kept waiting and once took dictation in a spa while the chef received a pedicure.
My previous job, in the genteel precincts of cookbook publishing, had prepared me for part of ghosting: bundling the voice, knowledge and vision of a chef between the covers of a book.
But I was unprepared for the chaotic reality of the job: the natural enemies, like paranoid restaurant owners who blocked me from kitchen meetings resentful assistants, often offended at being deemed insufficiently literate for the job chefs’ wives, who were generally not delighted by the sudden appearance of a young woman whose job it was to find their husbands fascinating and drink in their every word.
There is the uncomfortable fact that wherever you stand in a restaurant kitchen, trying to shrink into a fly on the wall, you are always in the way of someone with a more important job to do. There are impossible deadlines, hours of waiting around for tardy chefs and off-the-map assignments, like the two days I spent under armed guard in a walled compound in Bogotá, while the chef I was working with disappeared into the Colombian countryside. During those two days, with no cellphone or e-mail and only a Dora-the-Explorer ability to communicate in Spanish, I was essentially a prisoner, with plenty of time to think about my next career.
And although that was the scariest moment, it was not the lowest. That might have been the time a chef took my name off the cover of our book because, he explained, it would hurt his wife’s feelings.
There was also one rising culinary star, soft-spoken but elusive, whom I prodded into producing a book with me. Flushed with gratitude, he insisted on cooking at my forthcoming wedding, promised a space inside a New York City landmark and then — quite soon after the invitations had gone out — stopped answering the phone, forever.
Another young chef came to my rescue and catered the wedding. I then spent six months writing a proposal for his book — until he signed with the most notorious bullying book agent in the industry, who told me that a writer should be so honored to work on this project that money would not be a factor.
Because cookbook ghostwriting brings low pay, nonexistent royalties (most writers are paid a flat fee, or a percentage of the advance doled out by the publisher) and only a few perks, most ghosts don’t last long. When a ghosted book is successful, watching someone else get credit for your work is demoralizing. And when books do not sell, which is usually the case, it is tiresome to play and then repeat the roles required: muse, publicist and interpreter.
But it can also be a gateway to better things. Julia Turshen, who is writing a second cookbook with Gwyneth Paltrow after their collaboration on “My Father’s Daughter,” began as the ghostwriter for the ghostwriter on a book by Mario Batali, tagging along with a notebook as the chef filmed a culinary romp through Spain.
“The guy I was reporting for ended up off the project, and that’s how I got started,” she said. Ms. Turshen, like many younger ghosts, is generally thrilled to be paid for the combination of writing and cooking.
Oddly, one of the best qualifications for the job is ignorance: the tricky steps and specialized skills that a chef will teach the ghostwriter as they work together are the same ones the writer will have to teach to a home cook in the text of the book. The best ghosts are the ones who anticipate the reader’s questions.
How chefs are making Yom Kippur break fast in a freakishly uncommon year
Image by Liza Schoenfein
Yom Kippur is a time of prayer and personal reflection, bookended with meaningful meals: a light supper before the fast begins, and a more celebratory break fast when the atoning is complete. Some choose to start and end quietly as a family, while others do so by welcoming or visiting friends and relatives.
This year is different though. There will be socially distant services — many conducted via Zoom or live stream — and get-togethers will be limited. So what does this mean for the meals?
As we did for Rosh Hashanah, we turned to some of the best culinary minds in the Jewish food biz and asked them how they were starting and breaking their own fasts and adapting their gatherings and menus in light of the coronavirus. They offered lots of inspiration, ideas, and advice in addition to a slew of spectacular recipes.
Pati Jinich, Mexico City-born, Washington D.C.-based host of “My Mexican Kitchen” and author of cookbooks including “Mexican Today:”
Image by Courtesy Pati Jinich
Citrus Chicken With Carrots and Baby Potatoes
How She’s Observing: We typically go to Mexico in December, so usually the Jewish holidays we spend here. A group of Latin friends — some from Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina — we’ve gotten together with them for years. Somebody does Start the Fast, somebody does Break the Fast. But now everybody is isolating, now we’re starting to get together in smaller bubbles, so we’re all deciding. Are we comfortable?
The holidays are really about the family and generations and the kids, so what I think is going to be the tone of this year is we’ve been connecting a lot more with our close family — our parents and sisters — on a regular basis, every friday, on Zoom. For example with my husband’s family we see each other in December, but now because of the pandemic we’ve been zooming every Friday for Shabbat. So the kids get to connect more.
My husband’s family is all about family, getting together. We’ll do the blessings together, the challah together, but everyone’s eating whatever they’re eating. My family, all that matters is food. So when we Zoom together, we plan, ‘Let’s make this menu,’ so we all make the same thing. Not the entire menu not all the sisters at the same time — I have three. We will agree on certain dishes, somebody’s always more ambitious than the others, that’s how we connect in my family, through the food experience. We’ll say, ‘Hey, why does your chicken look different?’ We’re connected because we’re eating the same thing.
For Mexican Jews it’s important to have all the parts of a sit down meal, not just for Rosh Hashanah but for Yom Kippur. I remember when I first moved to the U.S. and went to a break fast, it was more like an open door, a buffet, and I was shocked because I was used to having the break the fast as a formal sit-down meal with soup and a chicken and some sides.
So here, for many years, friends would invite us to break the fast and at a certain point I told my husband, ‘I really need to have our sit-down thing,’ and the people who were craving our sit-down thing were our Latin friends. We finally decided let’s just do our sit-down thing, and we had been doing that until now. But I think we will not be doing the holidays with our friends we’ll probably do the Zoom thing with our families in Mexico.
So it will be different, and I feel like we’re all Zoom-exhausted, but I think with the holidays and the change of seasons, that will sweeten it up. And also with the dishes that you know you only get during the holidays, that will really help lift people’s spirit. People have been very frustrated because there [seem to] have been no change in season or days of the week, but the holidays really make you feel like time does indeed move it has moved.
What’s Cooking: It’s mostly soothing food because you’ve been fasting, so you want to do a light thing. Citrus Chicken With Carrots and Baby Potatoes is an amazing chicken because on Yom Kippur you don’t want to be cooking for hours, because you’re hungry. It has tang from the orange and a tiny bit of heat and it’s a one-pot meal, because it has the carrots and the potatoes. And if you cook rice, everything feels bountiful. But it’s soothing, it’s not heavy. Rice With Angel Hair is very simple, but it’s different than your typical rice pilaf. And the sauce of that chicken is delicious so you can spoon some of that over the rice. I have a great Orange and Almond Flan. It has no butter or milk. It’s almond, orange juice, and egg yolk, so it’s great for people who are kosher.
Danielle Renov, New York-born, Jerusalem-based author of “Peas Love & Carrots:”
Nondairy “Dairy Delicious” Soup With Dumplings
How She’s Observing: We don’t usually spend the holiday with our family because our family is in America and we’re 6,000 miles away here, but the friends and community we’ve created here are such a big part of our holiday experience. Friends really are the family that you get to choose. We have wonderful holidays because we’re surrounded by all these friends who we chose to be in our circle, but we can’t get together and do all that this year. As of now, that’s really something that can’t happen. In that regard there’s definitely something missing.
On the other hand, I feel very fortunate in that my oldest is 13, my youngest is an infant. We really have each other. I can think back and remember myself with two little kids who went to bed at 6:30, and I can put myself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe they’re home with small children or alone or isolated or elderly.
Even though we’re isolated, I’m never really alone. I can contain both emotions and sympathize and understand what people are going through at holiday time. It’s hard enough to be isolated when it’s not a holiday time. It’s a period of connection and spiritual growth, and it can be very hard to be alone. I don’t want to forget about people who are suffering — I don’t want to acknowledge how fortunate I feel without acknowledging how hard it might be for others. Corona is not a blessing, but I do feel blessed to be experiencing Corona at this stage of life.
How She’s Breaking the Fast: That meal is going to look the same for us. It’s such an intense day. We go into the fast by ourselves and we break the fast on our own. It’s the first time our son is fasting, he’s almost bar mitzvahed so I’m going to try to incorporate some foods he likes. He loves a creamy soup, and my Dairy Delicious soup is just the best actual soup ever. And the dough dumplings are just beyond. So it’s perfect for after the fast.
A symbolic post-fast food is a traditional Moroccan thing: It’s actually an egg custard that you make to add to your coffee right after the fast. It’s one egg yolk, four tablespoons sugar, you just whip until light and ribbons and thick, and you just add that to a cup of coffee and it’s the best thing ever.
I always make chicken soup with kreplach before the fast. It’s not Moroccan, but it’s [my husband] Eli’s custom and we love it. Because kreplach are dough “dumplings” that are stuffed with meat and sealed. So we hope on Yom Kippur that our prayers will result in goodness for the year and that the decree will be sealed in, just like the kreplach!
Advice: If you find yourself isolated, maybe at home with small children, do whatever you can to get through the holiday. If that means buying food, great. If that means splurging on a few books or new makeup, go for it. Maybe get some help one day for an hour so you can take a walk. Whatever it takes so that you at least have moments within these two days you can look forward to and then enjoy mindfully.
Evan Bloom, co-owner of Wise Sons Delis in the Bay Area and co-author of “Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews:”
How He’s Observing: I’m not usually doing the holidays at home, I’m too busy [at the restaurants]. So in a sense it’s great because I’m going to be home with my wife and my baby.
On Yom Kippur, we’re open and we’re busy. In San Francisco, Jews are like, ‘There’s something going on, so I should go eat Jewish food.’ Companies here are like, ‘It’s a Jewish holiday, let’s order bagels for everybody.’
Because we expect groups to be smaller this year [in light of COVID-19], you can still buy a dozen bagels, slice them and freeze them, but we’re doing half-size platters this year. The platters usually serve 12 now they serve six. Even if you’re not six, having a little extra cream cheese and salmon at home isn’t a bad thing.
It’s really the basics: noodle kugel, smoked salmon platters, tuna salad, potato salad.
What’s Cooking: I’m always working on Yom Kippur, but this year I’ll be at home. What we’ll be breaking the fast with is noodle kugel. It’s one of my favorite things.
Alon Shaya, chef/owner of Saba in New Orleans and Safta in Denver:
Blackberry Torta della Nonna
How He’s Observing: Usually we would go out on Kol Nidre with a group of friends to this local Italian restaurant in town — that’s been our tradition for many years, and unfortunately this year we’re not going to be able to do that.
What’s Cooking: Normally, for breaking the fast, I love doing smoked fish and bagels and stuff like that because it really reminds me of growing up. We’d break the fast at temple, with chopped liver and smoked salmon and bagels. We typically do that, but this year I haven’t gotten that far yet.
I think that my Blackberry Torta della Nonna is a perfect Break Fast dish because you can make it and let it sit on the counter for a few days until you are ready to eat it. No one wants to wait for something to finish baking after you’ve been fasting for 24 hours, so it will be ready when you are!
Eden Grinshpan, Brooklyn-based, Toronto-born host of Top Chef Canada and author of “Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day:”
Persian Mixed-Herb and Feta Frittata
What’s Cooking: For Break Fast, there’s the Persian Mixed Herb Frittata. It’s my take on kuku sabzi, the Persian egg dish. It’s an easy, make-ahead dish that you can warm up. It serves six for pretty decent portions, so you can cut it into smaller portions if you’re feeding more people. Who doesn’t love an egg dish? I love a baked frittata, it’s your lazy version of a quiche. I have an entire chapter called “Eggs All Day” in Eating Out Loud.
What’s so fun about this one, you don’t hold back on the herbs. I put a lot of fresh parsley — for 12 eggs I have one cup of fresh dill and one cup of parsley chopped. So it’s very green. And I use a lot of spices. In this I have cumin, turmeric, and coriander. You’ll find that in the book I repeat a lot of spices on purpose, so the pantry I tell you guys to put together actually gets used.
How Chefs Are Making Yom Kippur Break Fast in 2020
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Watch the video: Marriott Hotel Clark Breakfast Time (October 2021).