Lisa Giffen is Maison Premiere's Everything Girl
When Lisa Giffen joined the team at Maison Premiere two months ago, she was given the official title of executive chef, but she prefers to call herself the Everything Girl. "Did the linens come in? No? Well I guess I'll deal with that," she says. "The toilet's backed up? I'm on it. We're missing a shipment? My job."
Giffen grew up in Germany, where her parents worked as contractors for the military, and she made her way to New York in 2003. Her path to this Williamsburg spot led her through prolific restaurant kitchens, but her journey started with permanent markers. "I went to college and business school, and I ended up in New York through a job with Sharpie markers," she says. "It taught me a lot about business and managing relationships with people. I use those skills every day. But being in New York really helps fuel your passion because you're surrounded by food."
So she started exploring what she initially thought was a hobby, only to realize that she had to make a professional leap. "I had this sales job and could work from home, but then I moonlighted working in restaurants," she remembers. "Eventually, moonlighting overtook the job. It was like, 'Why are you sending emails at 2 a.m.?' Well, I just got out of the restaurant. I had to make a decision, and I decided to stay in the culinary world."
She took a stage at Prune, which helped her land at Blue Hill. "That's where I met Juan Cuevas, and I went with him when he went to Upper West Side's [now closed] Eighty One." Giffen made the leap then over to Daniel before landing at Alain Ducasse's Adour, where she spent three years working her way up the ranks to sous chef.
And then during a summer stint, she heard about an opening at Maison Premiere. "I worked with Jared [Stafford-Hill, Maison Premiere's former executive chef] at Adour--I was the sous chef, he was the fish cook--and we spent a summer in New Jersey because the kitchen closes at Adour in the summer. We bonded, and when this project came along, he asked me if I wanted to join, and I said yes."
This is part one of our interview, in which Giffen weighs in on what she hates seeing on menus, an underrated kitchen tool, and the hidden caviar and champagne gem she loves in Midtown. For part two of our chat, check this blog again tomorrow.