‘Esquire’ Escalates Chef-Fashion War With ‘Maxim’Has it really come to this? Maxim and Esquire are going at it hammer and tongs to see who can print more ridiculous images of chefs as fashion models. Esquire started it, with a never-to-be-forgotten Simon Hammerstein–David Chang tough-guy shoot. This year, Maxim released its April spread early to get the jump on Esquire, but both mags shared a few models (formerly known as chefs): Michael Psilakis of Anthos, Neil Ferguson of Allen and Delancey, and Craig Koketsu of Park Avenue Winter. Psilakis, for his part, is even wearing similar suits in both spreads. (Did he leave the Maxim refrigerator and head straight to his Esquire lunch at Insieme?) Other chefs of note in the shoot include Ben Chekroun, the elegant maître d’ of Le Bernardin, whom we interviewed for Ask a Waiter back in the day; San Domenico’s affable wine director, Piero Trotta; and the boyish Wesley Genovart of Degustation, tucking into a plate of duck and soba noodles. We give Esquire the edge for shooting the dapper John McDonald at Keens. Though he’s more of a bon vivant restaurateur than a chef, Johnny Mac is a quintessential Esquire man.
Man’s Gotta Eat [Esquire]
Related: Chefs Put on Something a Little More Comfortable
When Chefs Play Dress-Up
Jason Hall Doesn’t Want to Ever Leave Michael PsilakisName: Jason Hall
Restaurants: Anthos and Mia Dona
Background: Hall Worked at San Francisco’s Aqua and One Market, followed by a long period as a line cook under George Morrone, at the four-star restaurant the Fifth Floor. Hall then spent five formative years at Craft, first under Marco Canora and then Damon Wise, before joining with Michael Psilakis and eventually becoming executive chef at his restaurants.
Back of the House
Chefs Put on Something a Little More ComfortableCan someone remind us, again, when chefs became fashion icons? Was it when Esquire featured a spread of Simon Hammerstein and David Chang in tough-guy postures? Or maybe the Daily News’ “Sexiest Chef” contest was the turning point. Meanwhile, the last time we looked, chefs spent most of their time either wearing grease-splattered whites, or dressing in band t-shirts to show that they were rocking hard, and ever mod. But there’s no arguing with the genre of the chef fashion pictorial, and we have to say, this one, taken from the new Maxim, is pretty soigné. But why is Michael Psilakis wearing a suit in a refrigerator? Shouldn’t he have an overcoat on, at least? And why doesn’t Craig Koketsu have a Pucci apron on, if he’s butchering? And as for Sam Mason’s hippie-lothario duds, we can only nod our heads in mute, approving awe.
New York City’s Hottest Young Chefs [Maxim]
Related: When Chefs Play Dress-Up
Robert Irvine’s Career Officially Over; Chodorow Plans Hot New RooftopWe’re surprised it took this long to happen, but “celebrity chef” Robert Irvine, known of late for his lies about his background, has announced that he will not proceed with the opening of two planned restaurants in St. Petersburg. [This Just In/St. Petersburg Times]
Related: Surprise, Surprise: Robert Irvine Gets the Boot From the Food Network
The best way to taste the dishes on Top Chef is to head to the toques’ post-Bravo places of employment in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and San Francisco. [Zagat Buzz]
Frank Bruni muses on the tourist-tipping problem, noting that he’s not a fan of automatic gratuity charges since they prevent diners from communicating their pleasure or irritation with the service. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Back of the House
What to Order at Mia Dona Mia Dona, Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’s new restaurant is open and busy, though still BYOB. We previewed the food in our video, but the menu turns out to be larger and significantly cheaper than expected. The gnudi with truffle-butter sauce, mushrooms, and crispy speck that was so popular at the old Dona is back, one of only two survivors from the old menu. Mia Dona skews Italian more than the old Dona did, but there are a number of Greco-Psilakisian numbers on it, as well, especially a grilled octopus with olives, Feta, and anchovy vinaigrette. The bar menu, meanwhile, is completely separate and includes a burger (as seen on our video), a pork belly BLT, and crispy baccalà that is the only other Dona holdover. Check out the dinner menu, part of our ever-expanding database, for yourself.
Mia Dona Dinner Menu
Related: Video: Inside Mia Dona’s Kitchen
A New Food Blog From the ‘Times’; Can Dining Alone Get You a Date?The Times has launched a new food blog called Bitten that’s being written by “Minimalist”-column writer Mark Bittman. What’s in store for readers? “We’re going to look at great food made with everyday ingredients and readily achievable techniques — as The Minimalist has been doing for a decade — not food as something to be admired from afar, but as a part of daily life.” [Bitten/NYT]
Monkey Bar chef Chris Cheung thinks he deserves a little credit for making black miso cod so popular at Nobu. [Gothamist]
Several changes in their dining culture have led the Vietnamese to embark on a “rodent-eating bonanza.” [WSJ]
Video: Inside Mia Dona’s Kitchen
What will you be eating next month at Mia Dona, the new midtown restaurant from chef Michael Psilakis and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia? We suggest the meat loaf roasted to order with an egg tucked inside. Or the hamburger with the salsa verde and garlic confit. And what will the dining room look like? Too soon to tell with all the plywoodTM, but Psilakis points out the construction highlights. See what other treats are coming by watching Grub Street’s video preview of Mia Dona.
Video Openings: Mia Dona [NYM Video]
Danny Meyer Might Fix Up Union Square Park; Welcome to ‘Mexhattan’Danny Meyer and the Union Square Partnership are planning to renovate the north end of Union Square Park, including a transformation of the decaying pavilion into a windowless restaurant space. [NYO]
Mia Dona, Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis’s newest baby, will start serving up rustic Italian with Greek influences in midtown next month. Marc Forgione, most recently the corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group, is planning an American restaurant for a spring opening. [NYT]
Forget about bringing your junior gastronomes to the finest restaurant Disney World has to offer: Victoria & Albert’s has banned all kids under the age of 10. [NYP]
A Hip-hop IHOP in Brooklyn; Grant Achatz Beats CancerMary J. Blige and Foxy Brown’s producer, known to fans as Don Pooh, owns what is already being called the “hip-hop IHOP” that opened in downtown Brooklyn yesterday. [NYDN]
Related: The Phantom IHOP of Midtown West
Meatpaper magazine is a popular read with both carnivores and vegetarians, which is how the founders learned that bacon, delectable treat of treats, “is how vegetarians change their minds” when they revert to their meat-eating ways. [NYT]
Today in unsubstantiated rumors: David Bouley’s forthcoming Japanese restaurant/cooking school will open across the street from Upstairs at Bouley. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Related: David Bouley to Open Restaurant With Japan’s Top Cooking School
Psilakis Promises the New and the Gnudi at Dona 2.0
When Dona shuttered unexpectedly last year, the impact was cushioned by the knowledge that Michael Psilakis has two other restaurants: the informal Kefi and the ambitious Anthos. Well, both places are big successes, but some of us still miss Dona — its Italian inflections, its suppleness, the width of its menu, and of course that world-class gnudi. We checked in with Psilakis the other night, and he tells us that he and his boyish chef de cuisine, Jason Hall, are testing recipes like crazy: “We’re constantly cooking, doing different things than we’ve been doing at Anthos. I really love filled pastas, so there’s going to be some of those. And the gnudi will definitely be back.”
Psilakis Moving Kefi to Better Space; Chodorow Moving Wild Salmon to a BetterMichael Psilakis is moving Kefi into a bigger and better space not far from its current location. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Jeffrey Chodorow’s plagued seafood endeavor Wild Salmon is rumored to close before the New Year. [Eater]
A list of restaurants for Christmas Eve and day dining includes traditional picks like the Café at Country and Allen & Delancey, and more unique options like a Scandinavian Christmas Eve feast at Aquavit and dim sum from Chinatown Brasserie. [Restaurant Girl]
Where to Eat on Black Friday; Last-Minute Turkey DinnersMichael Psilakis plans to open his “Dona redux,” at 58th Street between Second and Third, by early January. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Related: Psilakis Seeks Site for a Late-Night Downtown Restaurant — and a New Dona
Satisfying post-shopping eats are invaluable because “when you no longer feel loaded is the perfect time to get loaded.” This comprehensive list covers midtown, Herald Square, the meatpacking district, and Soho. [NYP]
New tip for turkey: Carve it like a butcher, not like a chef. [NYT]
Back of the House
Memo to World: Michael Symon and Michael Psilakis Are Not the Same Person
We ran into Michael Symon last week, a.k.a. the Next Iron Chef; as food celebs we meet are wont to do, he said that he hoped what he told us wouldn’t end up on Grub Street the next day. Jokingly, we suggested that we’d just write about how we ran into Anthos chef Michael Psilakis. “That happens to me all the time,” Symon, said, laughing. You can’t blame people for getting confused: Both men are high-profile, thirtysomething Greek (or part-Greek) chefs named Michael who are bald and happened to open up ambitious Greek restaurants at around the same time. There is, however, one clear difference between the two: Psilakis has a chinbeard, and Symon a soul patch. But this seemed cold comfort to Symon last night. Having frequently been accused of being Terrance Brennan’s doppelgänger, we could sympathize. Now if only we could switch bank accounts.
Liebrandt Previews New Restaurant at Autism BenefitLast Night’s “Autism Speaks to Wall Street” gala at Capitale was a power scene, all right; any event where tables cost up to $100,000 and Bob Wright is there making small talk has clearly left the foodies behind. Which is a shame, because the level of the food was magnificent. The gala’s format called for chefs who had been previously “bought” at auction to cook a dinner right there at the table: Thus, Eric Ripert cooked at an oven right next to Wylie Dufresne, Michael Psilakis next to Larry Forgione, who was next to Chris Lee of Gilt, and so on. The tables were close enough to allow tasting and trading, had anyone been interested in doing so (it didn’t look like they were). Maybe Darrell Hammond’s painfully unfunny routine at the evening’s start put off their appetites. Or maybe it was just all the deal-making.
Psilakis Isn’t the Only Chef Who Knows GreekMichael Psilakis’s Michelin star (and other honors) is raising the profile of Greek cooking in New York, but other restaurants are looking to catch up. Ethos, a big, popular place in both its Manhattan and Astoria locations, is getting a classically trained new chef who vows to take the places to the next level. (A third Ethos, meanwhile, is slated to open in Great Neck at the end of the month.)
Michelin Stars: Colicchio Doesn’t Care, But Psilakis Sure Does
Michelin stars, like their celestial models, have enormous power to create and destroy; and even if, unlike their European counterparts, the New York versions lack the power to drive chefs mad or even to suicide, they can still mean a lot to a chef. We spoke to two chefs yesterday. One had lost and the other had gained a star, and neither man seemed unshaken by the event.
Dona to Return, in Relaxed Form
Dona, long departed and much missed, is on its way back. But while the last incarnation was a fairly refined, plutocratic concern, this one will be more casual. With a working title of Dona Café and a short list of possible locations (we’re hearing East 58th Street tops it), Donatella Arpaia and Michael Psilakis should soon be in a position to complete what sounded, less than a year ago, like an impossibility: to create Kefi, Anthos, and a new Dona, all one right after the other. Although owner Arpaia cautions that “it’s all just in the planning stage,” we’ve heard things are pretty far along. For anyone who ever got hooked on the Greek-Italian fusion that was Dona’s special achievement, that’s good news.
Tony ‘No Reservations’ Bourdain Hearts Ali’s Offal in AstoriaAstoria: Anthony Bourdain featured Ali’s Kebab Cafe on No Reservations, and here’s the video of him downing offal. [Joey in Astoria]
Boerum Hill: Workers are renovating the old Independence Bank for Trader Joe’s. The space may even retain its character! [Lost City]
East Village: AvroKO and Public boys Brad and Adam Farmerie hope to score a liquor license for their new place, Superior. B Flat applied for a license at the same Bond Street space a few months back and was denied. [Eater] E.U. will accept euros as payment from August 24 through Labor Day. You can eat 34 cents more on the dollar! [Grub Street]
Financial District: Stonehouse California Olive Oil has moved to the South Street Seaport and refills bottles at $2 off the regular price. [NYT]
Hell’s Kitchen: No free Cuban for you today; unfinished construction indicates the new Sophie’s on 40th between Seventh and Eighth is in no way ready for a grand opening. [Midtown Lunch]
End of the Line for Ureña; Rocco Admits Douche-baggeryAlex Ureña is closing Ureña and turning it into “a bistro-style eater called Pamplona.” The modern Spanish curse continues! Now Suba alone carries the banner. [Eater]
Rocco DiSpirito doesn’t seem to mind being called a douche bag: “I was thinking he must have worked for me to know I’m a douche bag,” the chef tells Nina Lalli. [VV]
Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag
On his Top Chef blog Tony Bourdain has some wise words to console Joey: “Joey’s the chef of a damn famous restaurant in New York freakin’ City. The place every ambitious cook and chef hopes to work — in the big leagues. So he’s already a “Top Chef” — and already a winner in my book.” [Bravo]
Related: Adam Platt Finds the Moral in Last Night’s ‘Top Chef’
New York Rated Top BBQ City in the U.S.; Kobayashi Making Bookies SkittishNew York is listed as the No. 1 destination for BBQ in the U.S.(Memphis, in case you were wondering, was No. 10.) [BizJournal]
World-champion competitive eater Joey Chestnut isn’t buying talk of Takeru Kobayashi being hurt: The Tsunami “could come to the Fourth of July with his jaws wired shut, and I’m sure he could still do all right; he’s that good of an eater.” [NYT]
Related: Hot-Dog-Eating Champ Struck With Jaw Arthritis Determined to Gulp On
The odds-makers, though, aren’t as confident about a crippled Kobayashi, and the board shows it. [McBrooklyn]
Psilakis Seeks Site for a Late-Night Downtown Restaurant — and a New DonaYou might think that Michael Psilakis would have had enough of opening restaurants: In the past year, he created Kefi on the Upper West Side, a low-end sensation, and midtown’s Anthos, a major undertaking. Now the chef tells us that he’s looking to open not one but two more restaurants. “I’ve been thinking about opening something downtown,” he says. “I don’t know if it would be another restaurant just like Kefi, or maybe something a little more in between Kefi and Anthos. I want a presence down there, but a lot depends on the space, the lease, and the location.” Psilakis likes the idea of a late-night dining scene, presumably along the lines of Ssäm Bar. There’s no question about the food, though: “It would be Greek, for sure, whatever it was.”
In the Magazine
The Food War Between Old and New ContinuesThe attentions of New York’s food staff are divided between modernity and tradition. Gael Greene is vexed with Provence, a reopened French restaurant which was faithfully conventional even in its former incarnation. Rob and Robin, apart from their usual announcements of new places in Openings, extract from Anthos chef Michael Psilakis a comparatively novel recipe for mature dandelion greens. And Adam Platt finds himself caught in the middle of Marco Canora’s half-modern, half-classical menu at Insieme.
Am I Too Old to Throw It All Aside and Become a Cook?
Dear Grub Street,I’m a religious reader of Grub Street and a major foodie who watches the industry like a hawk … I’m 44 and stuck in a job I hate. What I really want is to be in a kitchen creating amazing food and enjoying the camaraderie that I see there. I have enough savings to live on for a while, so the money isn’t that important to me, but do I need to go to a cooking school? Or am I just too old? Keith
In the Magazine
Nature Bursts From the Pages of This Week’s Issue
In this week’s issue, as befits spring, nature is bursting out of our food coverage. Snails and sea urchins take supporting roles in Adam Platt’s review of the highly rarefied Anthos; Gael Greene flutters into a restaurant called Tree; Rob and Robin talk tomatoes, spring almonds, and even more snails; and, in the spirit of growth, our food editors lay out two Short Lists of places where you can introduce young, growing gourmands to their future lifetime pursuit. Plus, four new restaurant bloom in the April sunshine, all in New York this week.