Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Reveals Her Kitchen Personality: Interview Part 2

Gabrielle Hamilton: master chef, mother hen
Gabrielle Hamilton: master chef, mother hen
Melissa Hamilton

Yesterday we spoke with Prune chef Gabrielle Hamilton about her big win at the James Beard Awards on Monday night, taking home the title of Best Chef: New York City. Today she reveals what traits a chef must have to run a successful kitchen and her favorite dish on the restaurant's menu.

What is your kitchen personality like?

It's kind of changed over the years. I'm more mother-hen-y now and slightly maternal but not gooey in any way. I think I'm pretty firm and fair. [When you enter the kitchen] you know what my job is. It's to make sure that everyone has what they need to do their job: clear expectations, good equipment, protocol, the electricity turned on. I just provide a clean, well-lit, healthy place, and [my team] will go from there.

What are the most important attributes that a chef must have?

Slight mania in a positive way, cleanliness, and you have to have an objective palate.

Prune is known for its quirky menu. What are some of your favorites?

Well, I will say that I probably eat a dozen radishes with butter and salt each day. It's been a signature since we opened. Not really a day goes by that I don't have it.

So what are you going to do with your James Beard Award?

Huh, that heavy round brass thing? I have some things pinned to my bulletin board; stuff from Michelin and the like. Maybe I'll put it there?

What do you think is the biggest difference between a big and small restaurant?

That's what's so funny about winning this [James Beard] award. It's such a conflicted category. Obviously the guys with big restaurants and doing fine dining -- that's where this title should go. I feel less than this title but I feel a little more than we are often credited for. Because we are tiny and the tables wobble, it's easy to underestimate what we can do in a small space. We don't have the space or the china or physical real estate to pull off what you can in a large kitchen. Even in terms of having a walk-in. We can't have a full cheese program 'cause we can't keep the cheese! But what we have in common is putting out good service and good food.

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