Rendez-Vous with Joe Anthony Chef de Cuisine at Gabriel Kreuther, NY
A few days ago, I spent some time with Joe Anthony, Chef de Cuisine at Gabriel Kreuther restaurant. We had a nice chat in the lounge before going into the kitchen where a small team were at work after the lunch service. Getting to know such a humble and talented man truly was a privilege.
Joe grew up in South Florida and entered the culinary world at 15 as a busser and a food runner at a local restaurant called 32East in Delray Beach. The chef and the crew in that kitchen inspired him. He loved the atmosphere and the team spirit as well as the creative process involved with working with food. At 19, he decided he wanted to become a chef. He decided not to go to college and began culinary school instead, attending class from 7am until noon and then going straight to work at 32East in the kitchen until the end of the dinner service. He spent 8 years working in South Florida before coming to New York where he worked at Restaurant Daniel and Union Square Café before joining The Modern. This is where he first worked with Chef Gabriel Kreuther before Gabriel opened his eponymous restaurant across from Bryant Park.
How long have you been working with Gabriel? I began to work with Gabriel at the Modern in 2012 so just over 6 years. How I came to work with him is a funny story. I was living in Florida when I became interested in food and I sometimes came to New York to visit my uncle. He’s a dentist and also a foodie and he was happy to use my visits as an excuse to go to nice restaurants. One time we ate at The Modern. That meal felt so special as if the food the chef was giving you had a soul! I remember sitting at that dinner table and thinking: one day I’m going to work here! And 6 years later, I ended up working with Gabriel at The Modern. I believe unconsciously, my motivation to move to New York was maybe to work at The Modern with Gabriel.
What did he teach you? So many things! If I had to sum up everything, I would say: make the food taste good and make it the way you want to eat it.
How would you describe his cuisine? I would say his cuisine is both elegant and comforting at the same time. I think it goes back to the feeling I had during the dinner in 2006 when I felt that it had a soul. As Chef de Cuisine, I never want to lose that feeling. At the end of the day there are 3 questions we ask ourselves about a dish: Is it tasty? – Is it the way we want to eat it? – Does it feel like it represents something rather than just having a technique or just being cool? It’s about having that warmth to it. This is what separates Gabriel from other chefs. You might have this dish and you may have never tried it before but somehow it feels familiar.
Foie Gras Terrine & Pistachio Praline
And what about the restaurant? First of all, we didn’t want to be a fine dining restaurant that was stuffy. We wanted it to be comfortable. We want people to come in, let their guard down and have fun without worrying about the pretentiousness of a fine dining restaurant; have fun with the professional and comforting service. Even with the menu, our goal is to try to make people smile right at the beginning. It might be with something a little bit off the charts or goofy but we’re happy as long as we get that smile at the beginning where we crack the ice and have people think “ok, I know where I’m at now”.
Can you tell me about your job? Which are your responsibilities and what is a typical day like at Gabriel? I usually arrive at 9/9.30 in the morning. I check in with the morning crew and the sous-chefs who are already here. I do a briefing with them: how is the day going, what do we need to do, will anybody need help etc. If it seems pretty tame then I usually work on menu development, exploring different ideas, creation, doing tasting. Then lunch service starts at 12pm and lasts until 2pm. From 2 to 5.30pm it can be anything between meetings, organization around the restaurant and the kitchen, menu development as soon as we have time for it. And then the dinner service starts at 5.30pm. It’s a compact day and it is really important to have people you can rely on and be supportive with. Our executive sous-chef Robbie* is amazing and all the sous-chefs we work with are all absolutely fantastic. We know each other, we work together, we trust each other and we all want to push together in the same way. I can’t do it by myself, neither could Chef Gabriel. It’s a team effort!
Joe Anthony and Robert Pugh
What do you like best about your job? To be able to create. That’s my absolute favorite thing! If I couldn’t create, I’m not sure if all the long hours would be worth it! As Chef de Cuisine, my job and my duty is to make sure the menu is always improving. I work with Gabriel on the menu development, we bounce ideas off each other. He allows me a lot of freedom and I’m very lucky for it!
Where do you find inspiration? It depends. Sometimes it’s season based, sometimes it’s ingredient based, sometimes it’s more about the technique, sometimes it’s looking at what others chefs do. It’s a combination of many different things especially with social media these days. Inspiration is everywhere.
Which creation are you most proud of? I would say the Fennel and Cockle Velouté. It was a dish made with blue shrimps. The blue shrimps were marinated raw like a tartare. It was served with a crispy seven grain tuile. The hot velouté would just warm the raw shrimps without cooking them completely. This dish was a beautiful play of different temperatures, flavors and textures. It’s not on the menu anymore because I always like to change and evolve, not only for the guests but also for us. You don’t want to do the same thing again over and over. It gets too repetitive.
Which products in particular do you like to work with? It’s a really hard question! There are too many to choose from. I don’t really have a preference. I like working with everything. It depends on my mood, the season, the products we can find.
How do you source your ingredients? We try to work with the seasons and even within the seasons, based on what the people we work with can provide. We are always looking for new producers and we try to support the local farms and the small farms even if they’re not so close. Sometimes it’s spontaneous, sometimes people are referred to us by colleagues within the profession like Dan Leiber, the founder of Stardust Farm in Pennsylvania, who was referred to us by a guy from Daniel. He produces these amazing squabs and he’s also become a sort of ambassador for a lot of local producers in Pennsylvania. He knows where to find the best local vegetables and the best trout. You can tell that he really cares about the small farms out there.
Pennsylvania Squab "en Cassoulet"
You recently travelled to Japan. What did you learn there? I was very lucky to be part of it. I went there through the Gohan Society and a cultural exchange through Korin knives. I was selected to go with 4 other chefs. The trip itself was absolutely amazing. We started in Yamanaka which is a super small town, and then went to Kanazawa which is bigger and then to Tokyo. Every day was really intense with different activities such as going to see knives, a sake brewery, pottery, miso making. I was in a Japanese kitchen for 4 days. The first thing they taught me in that kitchen was how to make a traditional dashi and that’s something I still think of. I’ve always liked it but now that I know how it’s made I have a newfound respect for it. I was in Japan for a really short time but even that short time has influenced me in a lot of different ways. We currently have a pasta dish on the menu made of tagliatelle and bouchot mussels. For the sauce, I use the cooking juice of the mussels and then I make a dashi and combine the two. The dish doesn’t feel Asian or Japanese but it has all these different underlining tones that create something that put the two cultures together.
Hand Cut Tagliatelle - Maitake Mushrooms, Cockles, toasted Cashews
What do you do when you don’t cook? I go to the gym to keep my energy levels high. I am also a huge fan of hockey and I follow it religiously. Music is also a big part of my life and I listen to it every day. I used to play but unfortunately I don’t have time for it anymore.
What advice would you give to aspiring chefs? I would say it’s hard especially at the early stages of your career. From the very beginning it has to be all or nothing. You have to fully dedicate yourself to the craft. And then you just have to continue to work hard and be on top of yourself, focused, disciplined and driven. If you have those things, I think it’s not so much about talent, it’s about the will to make it happen; it’s about the work ethic. You can be the most talented people in the world, if you don’t have the work ethic to follow through then you’re nobody. It takes a lot of hard work and patience. You have to be passionate and dive into it or else there’s no point doing this.
What about your hopes for the future? It’s a tricky one! I’m not that person who has a five year plan down to a t. I’ve had a lot of things in my life that can change dramatically from year to year. I’ve learnt not to put an emphasis or pressure on; this is what I have to do, this is where I should be. I know as I get older this will change slightly anyway. I would say that as long as I work very hard and I’m passionate about it and I enjoy what I’m doing then the success will follow. I like to see where my work takes me and so far it’s brought me here. So I can’t tell you where I’ll be in 5 or 10 years. I have no idea!
*: Robert Pugh
Harissa Marinated Beef Tartare
Photography courtesy of Alexandra Creteur
Gabriel Kreuther 41 W. 42nd Street New York, NY 10036 Tel: 212 257 5826