Round Two With Johnathan Adler of Franny's: "You're Not Doing a Restaurant, You're Dining There."
|Franny's via Twitter|
Make the same recipe over and over with the same ingredients, but don't feel beholden to what you've done each time. Keep your repertoire limited. Start subbing things in and out. Don't be beholden to recipes, but use them as a guide. Repeat them so you get better.
What do you wish you could tell your line cook self?
Slow down. That's what I tell my line cooks now: Slow down and focus. Not because I didn't do that, but it took me a long time to learn the value of moving a little slower and paying attention to what's happening right in front of me. Slow down, and don't get angry at anyone else. Only be angry at yourself.
What's your favorite dish on your menu right now?
The antipasto plate. It's everything that Franny's does on one plate. It's a very well-cured salami, perfect cheese that we import, peas and favas stewed in a way that I've never seen in another New York restaurant, pickled vegetables, and a super-traditional caponata that incorporates chocolate. It looks very much like what you'd get if you ordered an antipasto plate in Italy, only they put it in the microwave in Italy and we don't.
What are your favorite local purveyors?
Bill Maxwell from Maxwell's Farm. I like bread from Orwashers and Bien Cuit. All farmers at the market. They make our restaurant better. Salvatore BKLYN, Anne Saxelby; Bradley Bay at Food Matters provides us with amazing cheese. I'm really excited about the Gotham Project and the wine we have on tap.
What's the most challenging thing about working in the New York restaurant scene?
Everyone's a critic. The news cycle. You open your door now, and there is no grace period. Eater puts up the "Early Word" six days in. You want the early word? Go there once a week for six months. No one should get reviewed for six months. Restaurant critics have fangs. They're like starving dogs. Ruth Reichl might be the only restaurant critic that knows how hard a restaurant works. And no restaurant gets it right on day one. I remember when Hearth got reviewed--the guy was open four or five weeks and the review came out. Wylie Dufresne opens a new spot, and I know people want to know what it's like. But do you think that a review that will stand for five years should be done in the first three months the restaurant's open? Stone Barns was reviewed in 2004, and it's now a totally different restaurant.
It's nothing against critics; they're doing their jobs. My problem with it is our desire to label something--a two-star, three-star, one-star--instead of getting a holistic picture, like, "I went to x once a week; the food was consistent, but the menu didn't change, and there were two seasons." That's something I want to know. This phrase kills me: "Have you 'done' this place yet?" I'm not DOING a restaurant. Do you mean have I eaten there? What a crazy phrase! Have you done a tasting menu? That's an experience. That phrase feeds into that need for immediate feedback. It becomes, "Is it worth doing?" You're not "doing" a restaurant, you're dining there. I'm on Twitter. I understand what it's like to be part of the second-by-second news cycle. But restaurants are not things that live second by second, and yet their success is measured second by second.
Describe your craziest night in the kitchen.
We lost power at a restaurant I was working at when a very well-heeled person was coming in, and the restaurant didn't want to close. We had to cook with candles and headlamps in July. It was 140 degrees in the kitchen, and there was no air conditioning in the dining room, so the check was discounted.
On the next page, Adler talks about the two people he'd have trouble serving.