Chefs Feed: Zak Pelaccio at Fish & Game

Chefs Feed visits chef Zak Pelaccio at Fish & Game in Hudson, NY

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Some journalists ask the stupidest question ever, they're like so are veggies the new pork? You know? It's like There's this need to define things all the time, and I entertain interesting people who are interested in things that are going on in food, but it's sort of like I want to suffer the fools less and less. You know, I mean the **** competition shows. It's not food. That's not why we do this. This is fully entangled with my lifestyle. This is living for me. [BLANK_AUDIO] Yeah, it's **** good. [MUSIC] My name is Zakary Pelaccio, and I am sitting in Fish & Game restaurant, which is in Hudson, New York. [SOUND] Eating was sort of a focus My family, you know, home cooked meals every night. I cooked when I was in college because the food was ****. You know, I had to make it for myself and. [LAUGH] When I got out of college, I did a variety of jobs. Saved money, moved to Asia. I actually got a job, through like six degrees of separation, working as a line cook in a Malaysian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. [MUSIC] I didn't intend to cook there when I traveled to Asia but I got so turned on to the flavors. There's the combination of acidity and heat that I've always loved and I couldn't quite articulate it to myself and this region of the world has articulated it to me. There is no where else to get that flavor and, you know, and I started thinking more and more about flavors. The more I thought about flavors, the more I found that the only one who could create the flavors that I was thinking about was me. I came back to the states and decided to go to the French Culinary Institute. And these guys approached me to come in the city and help open up a sort of bar/restaurant in the Meatpacking District, which at that time was sort of funky and cool, but one of the partners had just taken a lease on another space and he said, do you want to do a little cafe or something. I said I'd love to do something Southeast Asian, so 2005, I opened up Fatty Crab. [MUSIC] In the idea expanded, and created the idea for FattyQ, and which was very cool. My partner and the other guys involved wanted to open more so we did a couple more. I went along with opening more. But I wasn't ready for it because, I didn't know what I wanted it to be. I wanted to work in a slower environment, one where I was closer to farms and had my own garden. I guess I'm someone who has to do his own thing. [MUSIC] Jory and I, we got together in I think it was two thousand five, two thousand six. We started coming up here together and since that time, we've fantasized about opening a restaurant up here and getting the hell out of the city. I think a lot of people have that fantasy. We were on the same page and have the same passion about What we wanted out of a restaurant, and you know what we thought of the Hudson Valley, and you know, so it all sort of just started happening. [BLANK_AUDIO] You know while we are in Hudson, which some people call a city, some people call a town, I think it's sort of like a town with an urban edge. People come up from New York City or they come from Boston, and I think they want to have a country experience. And so, we wanted to have that feel. It's comfortable and and open and and more home like. We have some trophies which may be a little kitschy But a little kitsch is fun. [MUSIC] The kitchen you can see from both the bar area and from the dining room. The island is three-inch thick butcher block, and all the surfaces that were stainless steel are topped with soapstone from Vermont, so it gives it just that A richer tone. And really the only stainless steel appliance you see is the Cambie oven. Had I been totally out of my mind, I would've taken to an auto body shop and clad it in some enamel. It's just easier on the eye. Our focus is working with good stuff. Trying to treat it in a way that is turning us on, but it's respecting the product. [MUSIC] Clearly, it's ringing with a lot of wood fire and a lot of smoke because we have three different wood-fueled cooking apperati. We were steaming pork shoulder in the combi oven and then blasting it in the wood oven, and getting a great result, but then, we're sort of like, well, why don't we just put the thing on the And spit and let it go and we did that and it's like, well this is great. There's something you get when you're cooking with fire, from wood fire not gas fire, that you can't recreate. And at the same time we're not just focusing on that elemental quality of cooking, that real base, primitive methodology. You know we have immersion circulators and a cryovac machine. We have a rotovap, it's a juxtaposition of ideas, the new and old. Things that you might associate with more soulful and things that might be a little more antiseptic. And somewhere in between we keep cooking. [MUSIC] Jorey and I renovated a barn on my family's property and we've got a ton of stuff going there. Jorey does a ton of production in that space. [MUSIC] It's harder, in a relationship, to work as close, but we do a good job and we definitely balance each other out. I'm sort of the finisher. He'll come to me with the idea and I'll be like, oh well you should put this on it, or, oh it would be great with this vinegar I made. I can figure out the little finishing notes that go with his sort of creative, almost base ingredients. [MUSIC] I wake up in the morning and I'm like, oh okay, I have 70 pounds of onions and I have 122 pounds of chilis, and I'm like trying to think, what am I going to do? What can I do that's different? It's tons of fun. [MUSIC] The only downside is that it's out of my house, so it's hard because the chaos that builds around the home, you wake up, you get out of bed, and you're just like, oh. And I know that we didn't go into it saying, oh, we're gonna be so aggressively local, and it's gonna be this like, we're on our soapbox, it's just really easy to be up here. [SOUND] More or less the menu has completely changed every week. I don't know if that's the smartest thing to do, because it taxes everybody mentally, but it is exciting. [MUSIC] Cauliflower's in right now so I'm doing a dish with a plum preserve that Jori made, yellow fruity lemon drop chewies cauliflower puree, and oven roasted cauliflower. And a little brown butter with brioche crumbs in it. [MUSIC] We get local turmeric, so make a turmeric [UNKNOWN] Toss spaetzle in that and serve it with the roasted pork should and some pickled mustard seed. Braised out some beef shin in red wine. We're cooking some sturgeon bones, and we're going to blend red wine, beef jus with the sturgeon jus, and a little fresh beet juice to make borscht. As I get older I'm less concerned with my personal profile than what it is I'm doing on a day to day basis. I'm just interested, you know, in what's happening next and how I'm gonna get a clearer Cider press tomorrow, and I think I'm gonna hand-chop the apples. [MUSIC]
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Chefs Feed: Zak Pelaccio at Fish & Game