Jason Kallert Carries the Le Cirque Torch

A rock-solid classicist, no fan of "crazy Asian flavors."Photo: Melissa Hom

Each week, we highlight one of the citys great but obscure young chefs.

Name: Jason Kallert

Age: 29

Restaurant: Le Cirque

Background: Kallert is a CIA graduate who, after time spent under the late Patrick Clark at Tavern on the Green and Union Pacific with Rocco DiSpirito, began a long association with Le Cirque, outlasting three executive chefs: Sottha Kuhnn at the original Le Cirque, Pierre Schaedelin at Le Cirque 2000 and the current iteration of the restaurant, and his replacement, Christophe Bellanca.

Self-described style: Very simple and traditional. Im not into too much technical stuff or using crazy Asian flavors and herbs. If garlic and thyme goes with lamb, I use garlic and thyme. Im not as creative as some chefs. I like a classic approach.

Why hes a comer: Being promoted and maintaining your job through three separate chef administrations in one of the citys most famously demanding kitchen environments is an almost outlandish accomplishment. Le Cirque co-owner Mauro Maccioni considers Kallert the conduit for Le Cirque's culinary tradition. He has been a constant at Le Cirque for a very long time. It is difficult to find people so dedicated to the institution they work for. Given the glories of Le Cirques history, thats no small compliment.

Judge him by: I would never call out one dish as all my own, Kallert says. But Christophe and I worked together on a dish Im very proud of: a steak served with a cannelloni filled with short rib and red-cabbage marmalade. We sear the uncooked fresh pasta and then hit it with a little chicken stock and beef jus to finish it. It cooks a little and also glazes it. The steak is simple, dry-aged prime beef quickly seared up on the plancha.

Guesstimated time of arrival: Ive gotten a lot of good offers. People come to me all the time. But its hard to leave a situation like I have here at Le Cirque. If the right opportunity came along, I might take it. But Im not actively looking.