Didier Elena, executive chef of Alain Ducasse’s Adour, began work at the St. Regis Hotel’s famed restaurant this summer, but is constantly keeping his eyes peeled for seasonal eats with the onset of fall.
Yesterday, we got Elena’s take on champagne and simplicity in the kitchen. Today, he tells us about poultry politics and his continued craving for challenges.
Are some foods treated differently here than in France?
The biggest difference is the yogurt. In France, there are certain yogurts that you just can’t get here. Also, chicken, how it’s regarded. In France, chicken is something you eat on Sundays, with your family, like a rotisserie. It’s of a very high quality. Here the chicken is what you eat in the streets. In France, chicken is festive, to mark a big, important meal. People look at chicken differently. On the other hand, you can still find some very good chicken here. Like the milk-fed chicken from Four Story Hill Farm, in Pennsylvania. It’s superb.
Thoughts on New York’s street food?
What is street food? Sandwiches? Finger food? In New York, it’s very developed. In France there’s not a culture of eating in the street. What you find in the street is basic. Here, there’s a very high diversity and quality in this — street food, finger food, whatever you want to call it. It’s really good.
Any particular dish?
Oh, for me, street food is definitely the pastrami sandwich. Sometimes kebabs, but I prefer pastrami sandwiches.
Biggest difference in French and American gastronomy?
Cajun food. Cuisine from Louisiana, it’s truly and properly different, American.
Go on …
It’s the regard of a people who’ve changed a cuisine. The stews, the way the plates use spices. You don’t find that elsewhere. Have you found it hard adjusting to your new restaurant and kind of new city?
I love it. I hate routine. I love change. There are some people that need to do the same thing, never move, never change their ideas, never challenge themselves.
How often do you update your menu, then?
Not every week, but every time a product is in season. It could be venison, or butternut squash, or white truffle or black truffle. Once they’re in season, you have to take them and use them.
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