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Hometown Hospitality

A trio of up-and-coming cooks bring a fresh perspective to hotel dining.

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L-R: Tien Ho, Peter Cho, and Nick Anderer  

Hotel restaurants have always had a stigma. Soulless and corporate, or exclusive and sceney, they’ve tended to be the province of flag-planting out-of-towners looking to expand their global franchise. This fall, though, some of New York’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs are taking the leap into the lodging industry (not to mention breakfast and room service). It’s about time, as chef Andrew Carmellini has proven with Locanda Verde, this summer’s savvy replacement to the Greenwich Hotel’s short-lived Ago. Now more than ever, people prefer casual and welcoming to uptight and snooty, and the new wave of hotel restaurants embodies this trend—perhaps none more so than the Breslin Bar and Dining Room at the new Ace Hotel, where Spotted Pig partners Ken Friedman and executive chef April Bloomfield will transplant some of their trademark gastropub vibe (and plenty of offal). After reinventing ballpark and museum-café food, Danny Meyer brings his renowned hospitality habit to the Gramercy Park Hotel, where he’ll open his first Italian restaurant. And Momofuku mastermind David Chang takes midtown by storm with a French-Vietnamese bistro at the Chambers Hotel, run by former Ssäm Bar chef Tien Ho. We’d like to take this opportunity to properly introduce him, as well as his chef counterparts at the Ace and the Gramercy, who just might change the face of hotel F&B as we know it.

Tien Ho
35, executive chef-partner at the unnamed Chambers Hotel restaurant.
Opening late fall. 15 W. 56th St., nr. Fifth Ave.

Culinary pedigree
Momofuku Ssäm Bar chef; sous-chef at Café Gray and Café Boulud.

First cooking gig
Whiz Bang, a vegan juice bar in Austin, Texas.

What to expect
Variations on the bánh mì and pho, and bistro staples like steak-frites seen through a Vietnamese lens. Plus a raw bar and charcuterie: “Certain things to me seem so universal, and pâté is one of them.”

If not a chef, would have been…
“A professor. In college, my specific focus was racial theory from a philosophical perspective.”

Guest amenities
A streamlined Milk Bar, dispensing soft-serve and cookies in the lobby.

What the chef is really excited about
“I really want to do cucumbers compressed in fish sauce: You put it in a Cryovac bag, seal it, and what that does is break down the cellular structure of the cucumber so all the sauce goes into it.”

Childhood food memory
A beautiful, perfect, crispy chicken-fried steak, or a great bánh mì.


Peter Cho
30, chef de cuisine at the Breslin Bar and Dining Room at the Ace Hotel.
Opening in October. 20 W. 29th St., nr. Broadway.

Culinary pedigree
The Spotted Pig (from self-proclaimed “fry bitch” to sous-chef). Fresh from a stint as a Whole Foods deliveryman, Cho walked off the street without having ever eaten there to ask for a job.

What to expect
Full English breakfast, starring house-cured-and-smoked bacon and ham, and baked beans cooked with pork fat, bacon, molasses, and jalapeños. Also: terrines, a lamb burger with French feta and cumin mayo, and scrumpet: lamb breast cooked slowly, thinly sliced, breaded, and deep-fried.

Dining-room décor
“Dark and moody,” says Bloomfield; “Hunting-lodge chic,” says Friedman—with snug-like booths enclosed by corduroy-lined, vintage-plaid curtains.

Guest amenities
A chef’s table for preordered family-style suckling-pig feasts, plus a Stumptown café right next door.

Favorite off-hours hangout
“The only craving I have is for Koreatown. I go to Kunjip for stews and casseroles. It’s like home.”

What the chef is really excited about
“We have two fryers on the hot line, and I’m dreaming of filling one with duck fat.”


Nick Anderer
31, executive chef at Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
Opening in November. 2 Lexington Ave., nr. 21st St.

Culinary pedigree
Gramercy Tavern executive sous-chef; line cook at Babbo: “I spent most of my time on the pasta station.”

First cooking gig
Pastry assistant at Buzzy O’Keeffe’s Water Club.

What to expect
Cooking that’s “aggressive in the accentuation of bold Roman flavors…and restrained in its respect for seasonal ingredients and straightforward techniques.”

What sealed the (hotel) deal
Parkside proximity; also known as Danny-Meyer bait. David Rockwell’s redesign will finally exploit the primo views.

Guest amenities
The front will act as a coffee bar in the morning, then morph into a wine bar as the day goes on, serving a separate small-plates menu at night.

Favorite NYC Italian restaurants
Perbacco, Lupa, and L’Artusi.

Favorite pasta shape
“I like pastas that are hard to eat, like bucatini, the kind of shape that fights back; you have to attack it and make a little bit of a mess.”

What’s always in your fridge?
“Anchovies, pecorino, some kind of cured pork, kimchee, and beer.”

Last meal
“The textbook answer is something Italian, but I’d probably go for sushi.”

Our Fall Preview coverage continues throughout the Grub Street Network. Look for openings and trends in Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.


Related:

Fall Preview 2009

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