Jeffrey’s Grocery proprietor and owner Gabriel Stulman tells Grub Street that chef Eric Milley has left and is “off to seek other ventures.” When trying to figure out the next step for the cozy corner restaurant, which just celebrated its two-year anniversary, Stulman said that no one wanted to hire a new executive chef. “We’re not like other chef-driven restaurant groups,” he says. “We’re more like a family. Our chefs hang out at each others’ restaurants so often, they all love each others’ food so much, so what has now happened is that we’ve formed a kind of ‘culinary creative collaboration’ at Jeffrey’s Grocery.”
As such, the restaurant’s new menu was written by chef Eric Tran, James McDuffee of Joseph Leonard, Michael Toscano from Perla, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of Fedora, and Tien Ho, who’ll be the chef and the co-owner with Stulman at their forthcoming French-American bistro, which, like the other Little Wisco restaurants, will open in the West Village.
The off-beat, fourteen-item menu allows Toscana to serve the clam po’ boy that doesn’t quite fit in with Perla’s hearty wood-fired vibe; Ho gets to preview his French skills with a plate of chicken liver toasts; Brunet-Benkritly contributes nachos made with smoke scamorza and a chicken tart with mustardy bechamel. All of the chefs rotate shifts in the open kitchen, so there’s a good chance you’ll see Toscano cooking an entirely new version of the old menu’s lobster spaghetti on one night, then McDuffee roasting mushrooms on the next. The restaurant is keeping the clam chowder made by Milley, who Stulman says is “still part of the family,” and the chefs have been tweaking garnishes on each others’ dishes.
“They’re all such brilliant chefs,” Stulman says, adding that the chefs plan to replace the restaurant’s brunch menu in a few weeks in a similar tag-team fashion. The phrase “chef supergroup” was suggested to describe the new approach. “You can say that,” says Stulman. “I’m sticking with ‘culinary creative collaboration.’ It’s our supergroup.”