Wondering what happened to chef Sara Kramer after her departure from Greenpoint’s Glasserie? Or what about Shanna Pacifico, who exited the kitchen at Back Forty West a few months back? Get a glimpse of what they might have planned at City Grit (38 Prince Street, 646-580-5720) — each chef is participating in the culinary salon’s annual Next Big Thing series, which kicked off last night.
“[The series] came about because City Grit is a place where we bring in chefs from all over, but we thought it would be lovely to have chefs that are cooking in other people’s kitchens — who are not sharing the spotlight and not putting out their own dishes — come in and showcase their own talent,” explains Sarah Simmons, City Grit’s chef and proprietor.
And specifically, the series targets chefs who are getting ready to launch their first restaurant. “When they’re in the process of opening or in the conceptual phase of planning, it’s nice to give them the opportunity to do what needs to be done in the phase they’re in,” says Simmons. “For some, that’s the initial development, and they’re putting out dishes for feedback. Some chefs already know exactly what kind of restaurant they want to open, but they need an opportunity to get in front of investors. We provide a platform.”
This year, Simmons is also lending a hand to each chef involved in her series: She’ll sit down with them to look over business plans and help connect them to investors. “We’re finding who we think are the best chefs who show the most promise,” she says.
This year’s series, which encompasses six different dinners happening from now until May 22, features Kramer, Pacifico, and Claire Handleman, who’s worked at Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and Del Posto here in the city, as well as Nahm, the best restaurant in Asia, per San Pellegrino’s 2014 list of the best restaurants in the world.
Kramer, says Simmons, “is one of the most talented chefs in the city. We were starting the series just as she was leaving Glasserie to hone in and work on her concept, and she’s in the early stages of fine-tuning what the concept would look like.” She’s teaming up with her former sous chef Sarah Hymanson for the project and for these dinners; you can catch her second installation tonight.
Handleman has already fine-tuned a Thai concept, and that’s what she’ll be presenting diners on May 15 and 16. “She served me the most delicious Thai food I’ve ever eaten, but with a Jean Georges approach to presentation,” says Simmons. “It’s unbelievably beautiful, elegant food — it’s flavorful and thoughtful.”
Pacifico is working on a market-driven restaurant, and her dinners at City Grit, which happen May 21 and 22, will showcase dishes in that vein plus her commitment to whole animal cooking. “Back Forty is, in my head, one of the pioneers in the New York farm-to-table movement,” says Simmons. “To put Back Forty in the East Village on the map and then open Back Forty West, and get two stars from Pete Wells, is an incredible accomplishment. And in addition to making amazing food, she’s an unbelievable butcher.”
You can score tickets to these dinners on City Grit’s website; each dinner is $75, and there are still seats available at tonight’s fete with Kramer.