Franklin Becker, Sheridan Square's new chef, learned on Sunday that he would take over for Gary Robins. Becker, who says he "manipulates food a little less" than his predecessor, has been charged with making the restaurant "a little bit more accessible from a price standpoint." Grub Street spoke with him this morning.
When did Sheridan Square's owners first contact you?
On Wednesday of last week, and the decision came for me to take over Sunday.
They wanted to steer the restaurant in a solid American direction. They liked my previous reviews and history and cooking style. They loved Gary's food. But at the same time, they felt that my approach would help the restaurant.
What's the difference between you and Robins?
I'm a very uncomplicated cook. I cook with wholesome, generally organic, generally sustainable stuff, and then I let the quality of the product speak for itself. I think it's fair to say that I manipulate food a little less than he does.
Was Robins's menu too ornate and complicated?
The cooking at Sheridan Square needs to go in a direction that is at once sophisticated and approachable. It should still remain upscale, but maybe be a little bit more accessible from a price standpoint.
When will your new menu be in place?
August 11. But I'll be running specials and intertwining my dishes with Gary's in the meantime. I want to take full advantage of the wood grill and am going to do a grilled octopus with shaved fennel, oranges, and mint. I want to do a wood-grilled quail with sweet-corn succotash — clean, bright, American flavors. I want to contact Anson Mills about getting grits and doing Anson grits with really good Cheddar cheese, mascarpone, and house-smoked bacon. I want to do a bone-on rib eye, finished in the wood oven. That kind of thing.
Does this mean you're not opening Bedford Falls?
With the economic climate what it is, I couldn't get what I needed to launch that project. Sheridan Square will take on the purest identity of what I envisioned for Bedford Falls.