Chatting With Print's Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez on Going Back to the Pastry Kitchen, In-House Foraging, and Tom Colicchio's 'Startling' Coke Ads

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Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez is back in the pastry kitchen.
Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez was putting pastry all over the New York map long before Johnny Iuzzini made it sexy or Sam Mason made it space-aged. After getting her start at Mondrian, she became the pastry chef at the Union Square Cafe, and then proceeded to spend the next 15 years creating three-star desserts at L'Impero, Veritas, and Judson Grill. This week, Carlucci-Rodriguez stepped into the pastry kitchen at Print, Adam Block's new restaurant in the Ink48 hotel. Print, whose savory kitchen is run by Carlucci-Rodriguez's husband, Charles Rodriguez, is the latest example of the upward mobilization of hotel dining -- think Wegner Wishbone chairs and an in-house forager. It marks a return to form for Carlucci-Rodriguez, who five years ago ventured into more savory territory with Lassi, a Lilliputian Indian take-out counter in the West Village that built a devoted fan base before closing last August.

Check back in tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Carlucci-Rodriguez, in which she talks about the pastry chef community, what's in her refrigerator, and why she's a fan of lunch at Pearl Oyster Bar.

So how did you get involved with Print?

I had previously worked with Adam Block. He asked us if we'd be interested the project; it was already well on its way when he started speaking to us in May of 2009. I already had been dealing with my lease and my landlord and knew that Lassi would prob go into hibernation for a little while. So this seemed a good fit for us.

How so?

A lot of it was the mission of the restaurant: as much as possible, we're local and doing a lot of work with Farm to Table. As far as I know we have the only on-staff forager that goes to farms and finds us really amazing things. We just really appreciate that. And we're composting, starting right now. I wish there was more availability for that -- it's tricky to get it going, because people pick it up and you don't know where it goes. We're still not in a place where we're really happy with it; it's one of our many projects to get off the ground. But this is really the sort of food that my husband always did, and I was sort of in between projects.

What's it been like going from Lassi to Print?

It's all been -- I hate to use the word organic, but a very organic process. There was a two-week window between Lassi and Print where Indian food was at the forefront of my brain. It took a minute to wash that out. Part of my job was setting up the front of the house and hiring managers, and to get a feel for what we were building. Obviously, [the menu] changed a lot; we did tastings for Adam and he liked everything, but a lot of it was 'I'm just not feeling that dessert here.' As we're going, we're getting some phenomenal things from our forager. Like, I was going to do something with bananas and then she came in with these amazing chestnuts and I was like, forget it, I just got these amazing chestnuts, who needs bananas when you have these?

Your first pastry gig was working with Tom Colicchio at Mondrian -- has it been weird to watch him get so famous?

He was always pretty prominent in my life because he was first fine dining experience I had. I think it's pretty funny. He's definitely the most talented of all the chefs that have become that famous. I learned volumes from him, and I think it's great. If someone's going to be that famous, it might as well be someone good -- everyone else seems to be just personality, not really a chef. So I think it's a riot. But the Coke commercial is a little startling.

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