Modern Loses Chef; Bring on a Woman: Commentary
Know any good cooks?
Danny Meyer is looking for an executive chef at his most expensive New York outpost, The Modern, a Michelin-starred French restaurant in the Museum of Modern Art.
Meyer, the brains behind Gramercy Tavern, Maialino and the global chain of Shake Shack burger joints, announced last week that top toque Gabriel Kreuther will leave The Modern later this year to pursue opening his own restaurant in 2014. And so Meyer has an opportunity to anoint a talent worthy of one of the city’s highest-profile venues.
“The new chef will be someone who picks up where Gabriel will be leaving off,” Meyer said through a spokeswoman for his Union Square Hospitality Group.
Kreuther’s clogs will be hard to fill. He has a gift for cultivating customer loyalty not by pandering (no tacos, pizza or burgers pass through his swinging doors) but through challenging tastes and refining his menus. His food cunningly reflects MoMA’s mission of showing off the best of new ideas.
Does any other culture temple offer elevated riffs on liverwurst and tripe, two dishes Kreuther’s been serving since he inaugurated The Modern in 2004? In a word, no.
Meyer could have guaranteed lots of foot traffic from MoMA with another Gramercy Tavern or Union Square Cafe, or even Shake Shack with its high-quality grill fare.
Instead, Kreuther served up sea urchin froth, munster-brie souffles and other oddities inspired (though never dictated) by the French-German tastes of his native Alsace.
As a grad student, I frequented the Modern’s cheaper bar room because it was the only place where I could eat ambitious cooking -- like wild mushroom soup with chorizo ravioli -- at reasonable prices. Owner and chef were essentially doing the downtown-budget-gourmet thing before anyone else -- and they were doing it on West 53rd Street.
So I hope Meyer sticks with his original instinct of putting The Modern in the hands of a chef with a similar sensibility.
He could also make a strong statement by hiring a woman, as there are simply too few female executive chefs in our city’s top kitchens.
A free agent like Missy Robbins, late of Chicago’s Spiaggia and New York’s A Voce, has the right stuff for the job, especially with her fondness for nduja, a Calabrian spreadable sausage that doesn’t get enough attention in New York.
A recent meal at Manresa, David Kinch’s restaurant in Los Gatos, California, made me think that chef de cuisine Jessica Largey would also be a fine candidate. She could give New York the jolt of refined vegetable-centric fare we’re all craving these days.
Or perhaps Meyer will look to Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast, a tasting menu-only restaurant in Portland, Oregon, where the talented sous chef, Maya Lovelace, might be ready for her own place.
For now, those who wish to sample Kreuther’s sturgeon and sauerkraut tart can continue to do so as part of his main dining room’s $98 prix-fixe menu, or $155 tasting menu.
An eight-course meal for two, after wine pairings, tax and tip, will cost just shy of $750. The Modern’s bar room remains the more affordable option, offering small-to-mid-size plates like buckwheat spaetzle with raw tuna and foie gras.
Whatever dining format Meyer chooses, and whoever he puts at the helm, one of the city’s most important dining rooms is on the verge of a major culinary change.
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com.)
Muse highlights include Patrick Cole on philanthropy and Amanda Gordon’s Hamptons Scene.