Much like farmers or umbrella salespeople, the women of King are beholden to the whims of the weather. The menu at the small Soho bistro, which serves beautifully executed Southern Italian food in an understated setting, reinvents itself each day based on the produce, meat, fish, dairy and wine that shows up at their door. Because general manager Annie Shi and chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer are committed to working with tiny, local producers, mornings at King can resemble a reality cooking show—they must figure out what to do with what they have before hordes of regulars start filing in, expecting to be stunned.
King has a rabbit guy. He can only give them ten rabbits a week, and once they hit their quota: No more rabbit on the menu. King has fish people, too, who text them what they’ve caught (if anything.) Depending on the heat and humidity and tides and luck, ingredients vary daily, and even a specific item like fennel can arrive different than yesterday’s fennel, thus requiring a different approach.
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“Our cooking mirrors that style of cooking where you open your fridge door and see what you have,” Shadbolt says. “One day the fennel can be large and a little bit tough, in which case you poach it to bring out the sweetness. Then today, they’re small and tender, so we did it raw in a salad. It’s nature, and things aren’t the same every day—thankfully—and we get to respond to that creatively each morning.”