I’m an American chef and restaurateur who lives and cooks in New York City. I’ve been in the game for twenty years, and I’ve cooked in some amazing places and tasted some amazing things. I love to cook food from all over the world. For me, it’s all about having a good time and making people happy. I started cooking at age fourteen at this local Italian joint in my hometown, Seven Hills, OH, then at a fine-dining French place on the lake. I moved east to go to school at the CIA, and spent my weekends cooking for New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo in Albany.
After I graduated, I came to Manhattan and spent some time on the line at San Domenico. Then I took off for Italy to work for Valentino Mercatile at San Domenico in Emilio-Romagna, plus a few other spots that were good enough to take me in. I hunted truffles, learned from pastafarians, and hung around with some Italians who made wine, cheese, and prosciutto.
I came back to New York to work with Gray Kunz at Lespinasse. After three years on the line there (and a four-star review from The New York Times), I headed back to Europe, where I spent a year cooking and traveling in France. My next gig: Opening sous chef at the new Le Cirque in Manhattan. Then in 1998, I opened Café Boulud as the chef de cuisine. Six years, two James Beard Awards, a Food & Wine Best New Chef nod and a three-star review from The New York Times later, I launched an Italian restaurant in Madison Square Park. I haven’t been affiliated with that restaurant since 2008, but I’ve got some good memories, it’s where I earned my first Michelin star.
In 2009, I opened Locanda Verde in Robert DeNiro’s Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca.
Next came The Dutch, a roots-inspired American restaurant I opened in SoHo with two of my partners from Locanda Verde–Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom. Later that year, we took The Dutch on the road down to Miami Beach, Florida not too far from where my grandfather ran The Surf Club back in the day.
In October 2012 I got involved up at The Public Theater making sure everybody there had something nice to eat and something good to drink inside Joe’s Pub, one of my favorite music venues in the city, and The Library at The Public.
Then came Lafayette in NoHo, our French grand café and bakery open morning, noon and night on Lafayette and Great Jones Street inside a corner landmark building that was originally designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh, it’s a real stunner.
What began as an idea for a small East Village restaurant space I found back in 2007 has become Bar Primi, our casual pasta shop on the Bowery serving up a menu of primi piatti made with non-GMO semolina and specialty ‘00’ flours, organic eggs and handed-down techniques.
I have also written two cookbooks with my wife, Gwen Hyman: Urban Italian: True Stories and Simple Recipes from a Life In Food (Bloomsbury) and American Flavor (Ecco/HarperCollins).