Franklin Becker, the chef at Abe & Arthur’s and Lexington Brass, has been cooking since the ripe old age of 14. He’s also a native New Yorker, so he’s seen food fads wax and wane in this city. We called him up to learn more about what’s cooking at Abe & Arthur’s and what trends are going to be hot this year.
So I hear you’re shaking up the menu at Abe & Arthur’s. What’s going to change?
Traditionally, over the past two and half years, we’ve been a popular spot in the Meatpacking District, with lots of sharable plates. Now we’re amping up our large-scale format plates. We’re doing a côte de boeuf shared by two to four. In reality, it rivals that of the best steakhouses in the city: 44 ounces of 28-day-old dry-aged prime beef from Creekstone Farms. It’s the same steak as at Minetta. We serve it with a four-cheese potato gratin and fried onions. And we have a new shrimp-scampi dish, with basil bread crumbs and roasted tomatoes. We have a whole head of cauliflower that’s been basted in brown butter and paired with a raisin and white chocolate emulsion with pistachios and piment d’Espelette. It’s just a lot of fun, and everyone takes off a chunk from the head.
Just like the Bloomin’ Onion!
[Laughs.] That’s one of my favorite things. It definitely has a cult following.
In all seriousness, though, do you think sharable formats are a marked trend?
There are definite changes in dining patterns. Looking at our sister restaurant, Catch, people are really enjoying that format of sharing. Ours is like that, but in steakhouse form.
Where do you come up with new menu items? What are your inspirations?
I find culinary inspiration all over, from my dishwashers to my chefs. The fortunate thing about growing with a company is working with talented individuals who all bring talent. I also look at trends and what my peers in the industry are doing.
What do you guys eat for family meal at your restaurants?
Scraps! No, just kidding. We try to make a wholesome meal. We always include salad and vegetables. Always try to strike a balance. We do this roasted chicken that almost mimics a rotisserie chicken but we go with more Provençal flavors and we do ratatouille with it. It’s a great all-around comfy meal.
What are some food trends that are important today?
I think there is a huge trend towards open-hearth cooking and wood cooking that I don’t think will go away anytime soon. We’re looking towards Latin American and Latin cultures, and that won’t go away. There’s also a lot of getting back to basics, which has been my credo since the day I started cooking. It’s about the quality of ingredients and a minimal approach that I can give. You look at Tom Colicchio, Jonathan Waxman — they’re the grandfathers of that. Well, Jonathan’s the grandfather, and Tom’s the father. … I’m like the older brother.
And it must have been interesting for you to see that evolution, having grown up in New York. How would you say the city’s culinary landscape has changed?
Yeah, I grew up in Brooklyn. New York was always diverse culinarily, but there were only a few restaurants that had the quality and you knew who they were; places like Lutèce. And you either went highbrow or lowbrow, but there was not much in the middle. Now you go to a mid-, low-, or highbrow spot and you can get the same quality, which is a big change. People are really concerned with the quality of ingredients today.
Check back in tomorrow, when Franklin talks about being a diabetic chef.