Round Two With Johnathan Adler of Franny's: "You're Not Doing a Restaurant, You're Dining There."
I ran part one of my interview with Johnathan Adler, chef at storied Park Slope restaurant Franny's, yesterday. Today I'm back with part two, where in Adler discusses the street cart that's his guiltiest pleasure, the pig testicles he once ate, and why it annoys him when people say they're "doing" a restaurant rather than dining there.
What would you like to see more of in the New York culinary scene?
Simplicity. Honesty. You don't have to have anything on your menu. I wish that more people would say, "I don't need to have this, and I'm going to cook the food that I love." Marco Canora is awesome at that. When he talks about the menu at Hearth, he says, "That's the food I like to eat, and that's what I like to create." There's something to be said for cooking the food that you like. That place has been around for 10 years.
What do you wish would go away?
What makes New York New York is that there's room for everything. But I guess complacency. I would like there to be a general attitude of "we can do it better." And fast food. If fast food boiled down to falafel shops, Shake Shack, and Bark Hot Dogs, great. But if I never saw another Wendy's, McDonald's, or Burger King, I'd be happy. Chipotle is excused; Steve Ells has made an effort to make a model that's sustainable.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
The Halal cart on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue. And I like peanut butter a lot. If I could have a peanut butter and blueberry sandwich every morning all summer, I'd be happy.
What's your favorite meal to cook at home?
My wife's favorite food is Mexican food (and Franny's), so either a taco night or super-simple roasted chicken and boiled vegetables with aioli.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten?
A meal I had in Italy. I spent a summer cooking there, and I went to a restaurant that had oilcloth tablecloths and plastic chairs. This beautiful Italian woman poured us prosecco and then walked out and serves us platters of salumi. Then the chef came out and asked, "Are you hungry?" We said, "Sure." So he said, "Cool, I'll make you dinner. Wine?" He pointed to a list and said "Il Maestro." It was a Quintarelli Valpo or Amarone. I have the whole meal written down; it was everything you could dream of when dining in Italy. It was warm and breezy, and you could smell the flowers. To drink Quintarelli in the Veneto while eating the food of the Veneto--it was the best. That and the one time I ate at Jean Georges, because that changed food for me.
What do you wish you could put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell?
Tripe. People don't like it, but I love it. It's also hard to source. I can't find sustainably raised tripe, and I don't want to use tripe from grain-fed beef. Most slaughterhouses that process grass-fed beef can't process offal. I love cooking offal. It's a challenge.
What music is best to cook to?
For prep, good old-fashioned '80s metal or Rage Against the Machine. No, I'm kidding. Beastie Boys. It's fun and it keeps you moving. I could listen to Beastie Boys all day long. During service, nothing loud because you need to talk. But I like it when we have old Motown. It's familiar, it has that nice beat, people bob their head to it if they hear it, but it's not distracting.
On the next page, Adler rants about the second-by-second news cycle.