Northern Spy's Hadley Schmitt: "The Best Advertising and Buzz Is Word of Mouth"
Part one of my interview with Northern Spy Food Co.'s Hadley Schmitt ran yesterday. Here in part two, the chef talks about keeping his head clear amid the media buzz, why he'd like to see more cooks with grit, and the healthy food he'd happily eat every day.
What would you like to see more of in the New York culinary scene?
More young cooks that I can hire. There's so much activity, and it's such a scene. It's amazing how much more attention people are paying to food. I used to think I would have to move to France for six years to keep learning. Now you just look at Instagram. But we need to get back to the basics. Every restaurant nowadays needs cooks. It's a challenging job. I hire people that have never worked in a kitchen before, and a lot of them are not up for the intensity. I'd like to see more cooks with grit.
What do you wish would go away?
Getting reviewed so quickly. It gets earlier and earlier, and everything is about buzz. It's important to understand that, but I'd like to see it change--give opening restaurants a little more time. There are plenty of other ways for them to get buzz.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
This is the first time I've ever had to plate desserts. There are too many sweets to snack on. I'm not used to that. I'll be quenelling ice cream for the plate, and I'll take a little extra for myself. It's a bad habit. There are times where it's like, uh, I should not have snacked that much on the pork scraps and pastry. I wish I was more disciplined.
What's your favorite meal to cook at home?
We have a small New York apartment, so it's simple: pasta and a simple, fresh sauce of some kind. I'll dice up tomatoes and add onion, garlic, and chili flake and then grate a little cheese on top. The sauce is fresh and filling.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten?
I have a guy moving back to California because he's homesick. I was kind of in the same boat for the first year. It took nine months to get through that hump. I have a memory of making it back to Colorado early, and my mom made me ham and cheese pie, which I love and got to request. All the kids had moved out, she was by herself, and it was just me and her at dinner. It was super satisfying.
In a restaurant? There was this sous chef from Union Pacific, Josh DeChellis, and he opened Sumile. I helped with an event on Long Island, and he said, "I owe you dinner. Come into my restaurant." I went in with another cook. The food blew me away. I was a young cook. As you get more experience, it gets tougher to get blown away. It was a very personal experience, and it's always stood out.
What do you wish you could put on your menu regardless of how well it would sell?
In a different restaurant, I wouldn't hesitate as much, but local fish in a raw preparation doesn't sell very well here. People don't seem to bite on it. You want to sell a lot of it, and that's where the problem comes about. I can't sell it fast enough.
What music is best to cook to?
No music. But I'm in a situation where I have to have music because of the open kitchen. It's a nice atmosphere, and the service staff changes it up. It's not like other restaurants where you have the same playlist every day. So I like something upbeat with good rhythm.