This Just In The tabloid wrapped street food was all the rage in London by the early 1900s when electric deep fat fryers enabled the commercial sale of fish and chips to soar. Newspapers, which initially used to absorb any excess grease from the fish and chips, were replaced in the 1960s with a more sanitary coarse brown butchers' paper.
The mirror-walls are good for people watching or ego boosting, but I could only envision an extremely clamorous and embarrassing event should I try to exit through the wall. Smoky brown carpets and deep garnet upholstery, so complementary to any complexion, surround each banquet in the dim lighting. It is a cautious room with all sorts of implications. The room seems more suited to a rendezvous than taking in one of New York's bright young culinary stars. Icon, part of Drew Nieporent's Myriad Restaurant Group, resides in the trendy and newly renovated W hotel. Heading up the kitchen is first time executive Chef Paul Sale. Originally from Great Britain, the 37 year old Sale has studied with some heavy hitters including Andre Soltner, Julia Child, Michele Bourdin, and Raymond Blanc. Sale began his career at the Michelin two-star Connaught Hotel Mayfair in London where he learned the value of high level ingredients. He spent two years each at the Waldorf=Astoria and Le Bemardin where he honed his skills in prepa ring fish as well as preparing dishes a la minute. He later spent four years as Executive Sons Chef at Fifty Seven Fifty Seven at the New York Four Season hotel restaurant and several years as Chef de Cuisine at The Hilton at Short Hills. After fifteen years in the business, Icon marks Sale's first post running the show. "I felt I wasn't ready to take on the responsibility of an executive chef position, until now. I wanted to develop my menu building and food costing skills before jumping in." Sale sets aside five hours each week to prepare the following week's menu.
Focused on attention to detail, Sale now oversees a kitchen staff of 50 cooks. Every day he is on the line tasting each soup and sauce, not only to insure quality, but also to teach the importance of taste to his crew. "The most important tool in the kitchen is my tasting spoon," Sale believes. "Developing a taste palate is very important. It is a gradual process that takes time." Sale has found the auspice of a corporate kitchen has, benefited him professionally. "The hotel is a good roof to work under, the banquet and room service support the food costs of the kitchen. It has also helped me become established as a New York City chef."
No stranger to the world of fish and chips, Sale proved he was equally familiar with the signature cooking technique required for superbly prepared fish and chips.
Just one look at his dishes tells the diner that the man in the kitchen knows how to cook.
Perfectly battered fish plumped by the sudden surge of oil and heat, yet has barely a trace of the hot oil in. Just a golden brown crust, the edges slightly curled and the flesh within, white, moist and barely flaking.
"At first glance the petite chef with a tousled black bob could pass for an apprentice. The British skip in her voice was picked up while living abroad in London during her teenage years. The daughter of Malaysian parents, Executive Chef Patricia Yeo remains close to her roots though she has lived in Oregon, Washington D.C., and London. After receiving her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Oregon, she attended Princeton, where she earned her doctorate in biochemistry. Somewhere in between she took a six week course at the New York Restaurant School. After graduation Yeo sought work in a professional kitchen to 'learn a little something about food.' Her first job was working for a "brash and bold" American chef, Bobby Flay. "Bobby just gave me an overall confidence and he believed in me," Yeo recalls. "After six months he made me his sous chef and I never looked back." And two and a half years later she had a new career. Yeo had an affinity for Flay's southwestern dishes. "There are a lot of parallel ingredients between Southwest American and South East Asian cuisine," Yeo reveals. "The use of spice, chilies, cilantro, and lime. However, I don't consider what I cook as being fusion, as it is known in the United States, which is to say an amalgamation of multiple ingredients with no direction," Yeo insists. "I think of my food as American food with Asian ingredients, the way my parents cooked." Though cooking may not present the same intellectual challenges posed by the field of biochemistry, Yeo feels a different set of muscles being flexed. "I remember when I wanted to relax during exams in boarding school, I would dice onion after onion, so I guess it was there all along," Yeo jokes. After working with Bobby Flay at Miracle Grill, Mesa Grill, and Bolo, Yeo moved to China Moon where she worked under Barbara Tropp. She later moved on to help David and Annie Gingrass open Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco as their Chef de Cuisine. "David and Annie taught me to taste with at least three of my five senses and to taste with my whole mouth," Yeo recalls.
Though he grew up in Amarillo, Texas, Executive Chef Todd English doesn't cook like a Texan. Professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America, English polished his classical training under the guidance of Jean Jacques Rachou at La Cote Basque in New York. Following an extensive apprenticeship in Italy, English returned to the United States with a vision and he opened his first restaurant, Michela's in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After establishing himself as a force in the Boston food scene, English opened his second restaurant, Olives. Today, over eleven years later, there are the Olives outlets in Las Vegas, Aspen, Washington D.C., and four nation wide Figs restaurants. Not to mention separate fine dining ventures and consulting jobs in California, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Eilat, Israel. He is even giving the Long John Silvers seafood chain a tune-up. His publications include The Figs Table, The Olives Table, and The Olives Dessert Table. His ambition goes unquestioned. "I always believed t he food business would be driven by chefs," English confirms.
Yeo credits much of what she learned about management from mentor David Gingrass. "He had a system for everything, there was no flying by the seat of your pants," Yeo recalls. I quickly learned that every kitchen, has a bottom line in terms of how and when things need to be accomplished." This is particularly true at AZ, which is home to three kitchens each with its own regime. In addition to superb managing skills, Yeo credits her success to the presence of Chef de Cuisine Pino Maffeo and Sous Chef Carolynn Spence, both of whom she exclaims are vital to her role at the restaurant. Though Yeo is forever appreciative of her staff, her presence in the restaurant is indisputable. "I believe in leading by example, so I work more than any of my sous chefs. I cannot ask them to do something I have not already done myself." Though she writes a chef column for the Times, she is leery of projects that take her out of the kitchen, "I need to be present to gui de the chefs and catch the mistakes that someone else might miss."
The most recent feather, or "fin" in his cap is KingFish Hall, a 225 seat, three story building dripping colored sea glass and tortoise shells. Located in the South Market Building of Faneuil Hall, David Rockwell's design is meant to make you feel like the little mermaid. A central mobile of sea glass cascades from the wavy mesh ceiling to the second, main floor, A thin "wall of water" shimmers across a two story tile mosaic of cream, peach, and red goldfish. The basement level is devoted exclusively to cleaning and portioning the fish. Cream colored booths, which bare a vague resemblance to scallop shells, swivel upon command to face the third floor hot line, hard at work.
On the second floor the "fish dancer," an open fire pit grill with rotating skewers of whole chicken and fish is the most amazing construction in the open air kitchen. The raw bar, sushi bar, and lobster pot, which hosts clam bakes, are all meant to initiate an animated dining experience with bar like seating. Chef de Cuisine David Kinkead, brother of Robert Kinkead of D.C. restaurant fame, notes that much of the menu is centered on traditional New England dishes. The fun is in the twist they put on everything from cooking techniques to ingredients to the 'bigger than life' presentations. Those who want fantastic tasting inexpensive food, flock to KingFish. The restaurant serves as many as 1000 covers a day. The restaurant is a bevy of activity from the early hours of lunch when tourists dine to the post five o'clock hour when the neighboring financial district empties. With new projects at the W Hotel in New York, the Park Plaza in Boston, and future goals to open twenty new restaurants in the next three to four years, English may soon be the King Pin of the restaurant world.
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|Date:||Mar 22, 2001|
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