What's Next for Bear's Natasha Pogrebinsky? A Book and More TV
In part one of my interview with Bear chef-owner Natasha Pogrebinsky, she talked about her life as a Ukrainian refugee and what she's trying to accomplish at her Astoria restaurant. Here in part two, she divulges a guilty pleasure, talks about the best meal (and nap!) she's ever had, and touches on a forthcoming book and her plans for a new TV show.
What would you like to see more of in the New York culinary scene?
I would like to see more restaurants that cook simple, real food and don't over-complicate it. It just has to taste good. Nothing will ever taste or look better than natural ingredients that haven't been over-processed or over-complicated.
What do you wish would go away?
The crazy DOH fines and unfair restrictions, regulations, and inspections. I know we need our food to be safe and sanitary. I'm all for pristine culinary environments and safe temps. But sometimes those inspections go too far. I taught Foodservice Management as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College for five years. I know the system, but we can do better than what we currently have.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
No guilt. But maybe Chef Boyardee. I know we are not supposed to love canned food, but
sometimes, it's really all you need after putting out fine-dining fare from a hot kitchen for 12 hours. And Chef Boyardee is from Parma, Ohio, where I grew up.
What's your favorite meal to cook at home?
Fried large, thick perciatelli pasta with butter, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. My dad used to make it: boiled pasta pan-fried with butter, some really good sea salt ... mmm, simple and satisfying.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten?
My father Alexander Pogrebinsky is an artist. So he used to take us to Paris with him for art shows. One year we were there for Thanksgiving, and we drove out to a little town called Chartres; there is a beautiful ancient cathedral in the center of town. It was cold, and the town was almost deserted, there were cobblestones everywhere. We ended up having dinner at this old little restaurant with big French windows and old wooden tables. I had a duck stew with mushrooms, potatoes, chestnuts, and some kind of magical sauce. You could tell it was meticulously prepped and cooked with love for hours. I just remember savoring every bite. On the ride back to Paris, I had the best nap of my life after that meal.
What do you wish you could put on your menu, regardless of how well it would sell?
I feel like I've already put things on the menu that would be considered a hard sell. We have something we like to call our "secret menu." It's not written, it's only verbal and you have to ask for it. Our regulars do it all the time. I love old Soviet delicacies like cod fish liver with toast, beef tongue aspic with horseradish, pig fat carpaccio a.k.a. Ukrainian salo. I put those things on our chef's tasting menu all the time, and they are a huge hit. That's what I love about the New York scene--people will try anything.
What music is best to cook to?
Up next, Pogrebinsky talks about hardships that come with the industry.