‘My Hands are in Everything:’ A Chat with Fish & Farm’s Chad Newton

Chad Newton is one of those chefs who seems to really be happier in the kitchen than anywhere else. The Postrio and Baraka veteran took some time off after his most recent stint as executive chef at Urban Tavern, and exactly one week into his new post as executive chef at Fish & Farm he’s all enthusiasm to be back in the kitchen. Fish & Farm recently went dark for a few days to do a bit of redecorating and to revise the menu, and when they reopened last week, they introduced a unique new pricing scheme: Every price listed on the menu is exactly what shows up on the bill, with tax and tip included. We got Newton on the phone to see how the new job is treating him, and how the new pricing method is treating the restaurant.

What did you do during your recent down-time?
I took a month off and did a lot of writing, some traveling… I’m writing a small novella. I just write about everything and take a lot of photos. That’s when I started the blog.

What’s the biggest difference between working at Fish & Farm and Urban Tavern?
It’s a very different situation. I’d say the most positive change is that I’m actually allowed to cook here. At Urban the executives aren’t allowed to cook because of the union situation. That killed me because I’m a very hands-on chef. When I was at Baraka I cooked all day every day.

What’s the Union Situation at Urban?

They have a set number of cooks, and if the restaurant and hotel are slow a few of those cooks are laid off for a few days… If [union workers] see an executive cooking, they’ll say more staff should have been brought on that day. I came into Fish & Farm and I’m cooking every day, all day. I have a station, my hands are in everything. It’s great.

What changes have you made to the menu? In what new direction are you taking the food there?
I think the best way to describe it is “New American comfort food.” A lot of people are going this direction because of the economy. People want simple food, they’re looking for a bargain… My take is that this is what I would cook at home on a Sunday for my girlfriend and my family. But our (Fish & Farm’s) philosophy is, if you’re going to do simple food, it has to be executed perfectly

What’s a dish you’re particularly excited about?
We do a really nice natural ribeye. We do a house-made steak sauce. It’s like a play on A-1. It eats really well. And we do an allium (onion) butter with roasted garlic, caramelized onions, shallots, chives folded into it. That’s melted over the top and it’s plated with some sautéed bloomsdale spinach and crispy onion rings.

So Fish & Farm has this new pricing scheme. How has that affected the way people order?
I don’t know if it’s just people coming in to taste the new menu or being aware there’s a new chef, but we have had numerous tables order numerous things to share. I’ve had a lot of tickets where two people order six or seven things to share. I would think that [pricing] would make me order [more]—but of course, I’m a foodie, so that’s how I eat anyway.

Do you think the restaurant will stay with this method of pricing for the long term?
I would think so. I don’t see why it wouldn’t. I think it’s smart and I think you’re going to see more restaurants around the city do it as well.

[Photo: Via Chad Newton/Chateau!]

‘My Hands are in Everything:’ A Chat with Fish & Farm’s Chad Newton