Four F&W Best New Chefs, one brilliant restaurant—that’s the concept behind Chefs Club by Food & Wine, opening this fall in Manhattan’s Puck Building. Here, a tasting hosted by the building’s owner, Jared Kushner, and his wife, Ivanka Trump.
At F&W, chefs are our heroes. We invite them into our kitchen to cook and hang out; we sing off-key with them at late-night karaoke parties; we find their hidden talents, like drawing or making ceramics, to share with the world. And now we’ve found another way to celebrate these amazing people: a restaurant called Chefs Club by Food & Wine, launched in partnership with Chefs Club USA.
The idea at the heart of the project is unique: four F&W Best New Chefs create dishes for the Chefs Club menu for one year. The first Chefs Club debuted in Aspen in 2012, and we’re bringing the concept to New York City. My role: Chief Curator and Talent Scout. Opening a restaurant in the greatest food city in the country was never an item on my bucket list. But it has turned into one of my most gratifying experiences. Led by Chefs Club USA president Stephane De Baets, we looked at spaces in generic office lobbies and cramped town house parlor floors. Then we found an extraordinary spot in the newly renovated Puck Building. The barrel-vault brick ceilings, cast-iron columns and oversized windows make this feel like a very special, very New York place, with infinite possibilities.
For our opening season, we reached out to some of our all-time favorite Best New Chefs with the goal of giving diners a taste of great food from across the country: Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon; Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta; Erik Anderson, who recently left Nashville’s The Catbird Seat to launch a new restaurant, Brut, in Minneapolis in the spring; and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. Part of the excitement of the restaurant will be in the collaboration and juxtaposition of these huge talents. Staying on theme, we explored the idea of creative cross-pollination as well, working with brilliant architect-designer David Rockwell and curator Murray Moss on all aspects of the look and feel. I don’t know who else would’ve installed a Nam June Paik–style video tower with footage of the chefs or created a wall of Best New Chef sketches, just like the drawings of celebrities at Sardi’s.
None of this would matter if the food wasn’t fantastic. So as construction on the restaurant neared completion, our new friends Jared Kushner (whose company owns the Puck Building) and his wife, Ivanka Trump, graciously agreed to host a friends-and-family tasting in an apartment upstairs. The Best New Chefs flew in from around the country to prepare dishes like lamb braised with garlic and red wine and fried squash with sage and Parmesan. When the chefs emerged from the kitchen to talk about their food, Jared peppered them with questions, as did guests Lauren Bush Lauren and David Lauren (who may have been particularly interested, given that his family’s company, Ralph Lauren, is opening its own Manhattan restaurant soon). Jared is clearly a born host. He poured the wine and was an exceptional cheerleader for the Chefs Club concept. I’m hoping we’ve converted our first taster into our first regular.