“I think it is the dream of most chefs to have their own place,” says Gabriel Kreuther, who after almost a decade at the helm of Danny Meyer’s the Modern at the MoMA did just that earlier this summer. “But I didn’t want to open a restaurant just for the sake of having one. I wanted it to be viable.”
The eponymous Gabriel Kreuther, set inside Midtown’s iconic Grace Building, is not a vanity project—it’s a triumphant ode to his Alsatian roots and the New York he’s long called home.
Fine-dining is familiar turf for Kreuther, who forged a name for himself at both the Modern—“It was something unusual at the time. People didn’t think they wanted fine dining at a museum, but they were wrong”—and Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton New York. Before that there was Jean-Georges and La Caravelle in New York, L’Ermitage de Bernard Ravet in Switzerland, and Le Fer Rouge in France.
He’s quick to point out, however, that he’s a country boy at heart, reared on his family’s farm in Niederschaeffolsheim, outside of Strasbourg. All those years in the great outdoors, surrounded by fresh produce, wild game, and rustic wood-fired ovens were formative for the chef.
Kreuther’s mother was a passionate cook and two of his uncles owned a hotel restaurant and pastry shop, respectively; another was a butcher. “I spent more time in the kitchen than doing anything outside on the farm. I remember my grandfather asking me at age four or five what I wanted to be when I grew up, and even then I never thought twice: a chef,” he recalls.
After winning the coveted Concours National du Meilleur Apprenti Cuisinier de France-Fernand Point award, Kreuther’s career began to take shape. His first glimpse of the States followed soon after, working with Edmond Folzenlogel at Le Caprice, in Washington, D.C. “I spent 18 months walking side by side with a great teacher, and that was a very defining moment,” Kreuther says—just as the opening of Gabriel Kreuther heralds another.
From an upscale, foie gras-stuffed take on a Hot Pocket, to a sturgeon-sauerkraut tart dreamed up in response to a diner’s challenge, here are 10 of the dishes that define the chef’s storied career.
Tartare of Yellowfin Tuna and Diver Scallops Seasoned with American Caviar
This is a dish that was always loved by people at the Modern. It was inspired by the amazing quality of the scallops and tuna I found, so I just wanted to emphasize those two elements with little else besides the caviar, seasoned with hazelnut oil to bring out the nuttiness. The presentation was simple on the plate, with thin slices of cucumber and two lines of balsamic. It was really a great way to start the meal and shows how cooking is about highlighting products. (Photo: petrossian.com)
When I opened the Modern no one in the city really knew what tarte flambée was, but it was a part of my heritage. I asked myself how could I share this and let people discover it? When we served it at the Bar Room, the reaction of guests was interesting. It was like a pizza to them but it wasn’t, so it started a conversation: What is that? Tell me about it. The history of the dish, in conjunction with the smokiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the onion, and the crispy texture is storytelling. In Alsace usually you go out and have tarte flambée on Saturday nights or Sundays with the family and eat them from the center of the table, engaged in an act of sharing. Growing up on a farm we were lucky enough to have a brick oven and could make them at home. Each one is a little story. (Photo: Paul Wagtouicz)
Chorizo-Crusted Codfish with White Cocoa Bean Puree and Harissa Oil
Codfish is getting smaller and smaller these days, but it was a nice size when I came up with this. Cod is very delicate so I wanted to season it, but not too much. I thought about chorizo, sliced thin. You see cocoa beans a lot in cassoulet, a dish people love, so that got me thinking about another way to imagine sausage, fish, and beans with sherry vinegar. With the harissa oil and just a little basil, it was like singing in your mouth. I first made this at the Ritz-Carlton and it’s interesting because you put things together and people react to it and it catches fire. It’s not about creating signature dishes, they just become one—like this. (Photo: mission-food.com)
Squab-Foie Gras Croustillant
On the farm my father used to hunt once in a while, shooting things like squab from the top of the roof. I grew up in a region where foie gras is a big deal, and my grandfather on my mother’s side used to have a duck and geese farm. My whole life, one of my favorite things to eat has been foie gras. So this dish is very connected to my childhood. I put the foie gras between the squab and wrapped it in cabbage—which is also very important to Alsace because of all the sauerkraut we eat—and then put the whole thing in a brick of phyllo surrounded by fall vegetables and apple cider jus. It’s a dish with history but it is also very technical. I’ve been making evolutions of it for years. (Photo: endoedibles.com)
I grew up around Riesling and there were rabbits on the farm, so this dish is about following my heart. A whole rabbit is slowly cooked in Riesling, carrots, and onions, and then cooled down before we take the meat off and put everything back together in the terrine with a herbes coulis of chervil, hyssop, chive, and parsley. It gets blended together with eggs and makes a bright green sauce. You don’t even see the terrine on your plate; it’s like a green mountain, with a little wine gelée. It’s not your typical pâté. (Photo: bretstable.com)
Sturgeon and Sauerkraut Tart
A customer challenged me once by saying, “Why don’t you use sauerkraut in your dining room?” Well, because sauerkraut isn’t fine dining. He told me he was sure I could come up with something that would fit. So I thought about it and I had the idea of a phyllo-dough tart. How could I get the wow effect, though? I said okay, caviar comes from sturgeon, and sauerkraut is usually served with a lot of smoked meat, so how about smoked sturgeon on top of sauerkraut with a nice caviar mousseline? It’s served under a glass cloche and when you take it off, applewood smoke wafts into guests’ faces. It really connects to my roots: simple and inspired by the farm. (Photo: Paul Wagtouicz)
Compressed Hamachi with Foie Gras Terrine
I was asked to make a dish for a Chevaliers du Tastevin Grand Gala wine pairing and I wanted to bring this beautiful hamachi and foie gras together. They went crazy for it. It was a spur of the moment creation but everyone loved it. Now it’s on the menu at Gabriel Kreuther with black truffle and celery. The beautiful thing about NYC is the mix of cultures and heritages, and how an Asian take on a dish can turn it into something completely different. (Photo: sashimigalore.wordpress.com)
Long Island Duck Breast with Banyuls Jus
I was always baffled that when you make duck, even if the skin is nice and crunchy, people don’t always eat it. I wanted to make something that didn’t lose the taste of that delicacy, so I made a paste out of the skin with rendered fat and mixed it with fried shallots. Using black trumpet marmalade, I recreated a crust on the top of the duck. (Photo: jamesbeard.org)
Oysters in Champagne Gelée
Where I’m from oysters are festive, eaten on Christmas and New Year’s. I wanted to try something different with them. How could I pack an oyster up in something tasty that, when put it in your mouth, explodes in a clever way? I thought of Bibb lettuce. I blanched the leaves and wrapped them around the oysters. It looks like a ravioli and has blanched leeks and champagne gelée, too. It just explodes in your mouth. (Photo: smokeybay.com)
Roasted Maine Lobster
I mix different herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and nutmeg—almost like a tea concoction—and then I steep it in white wine from Alsace. This is the base for the beautiful, fragrant sauce I serve with my roasted Maine lobster. I have not made this one in a long time, but it resonates with who I am. I make a lardo-poached version at Gabriel Kreuther. (Photo: Paul Wagtouicz)