Yesterday we chatted with Mathieu Palombino, the Motorino chef who is in the process of opening a modern American diner on the Bowery, named, aptly, the Bowery Diner. Today he talks to us about what he looks for when he hires new chefs and what piece of advice every chef should get.
What influenced you to create a diner? Did you grow up going to them as a kid?
No, there are no diners in Belgium [where I grew up]. Brasseries fit the same purpose, though, but they have a different look. I used to love to go to Florent [in New York] late at night. The diner is all you want sometimes.
Do you have a neighborhood diner that you visit regularly?
Not really. There aren’t any in Brooklyn near where I live. But if you go to New Jersey, you’ll see them. The working people, everyone likes the diner. I love these big diners; they’re shiny and exuberant.
Do you cook diner-esque food at home?
I cook very little at home. I did a plum pie yesterday. Sometimes on Sunday I do some pastries and I try things and get ahead for the week. But I eat very simple.
What do you look for when you hire a sous chef or members of your staff?
I’m looking for reasonable individuals that I know have enough inner qualities to handle what’s coming at them. That’s very important. Stable, not too crazy, and together.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received in the kitchen?
In Belgium, a chef told me that you need to worry about the quality of the food as if your life depends on it even if it doesn’t. Everything else is important, but that is essential. It’s a good piece of advice.
How are you going to celebrate once the restaurant is open?
I think I’m going to have a friend of mine who is a guitar player come and he’s going to play a few songs from the 1950s which I like a lot. I like live music, and he’ll play some old-school rock-and-roll tunes and we’ll have dinner.