Part-Time Private Chefs

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Tips 10 Questions for our Chef

Our chef fills us in on how he learned to cook, his best food shopping strategies and ofcourse...his favorite meal of all time.

LJ: Where did you learn to cook?

    I guess it all started making snacks after school growing up -- I kind of had an obsession with Italian subs. In college, I always took the lead cooking in the fraternity house kitchen, late at night; I think my two go-to dishes were Eggs Benedict and a fried chicken sandwich. The tradition carried over into my 20s, where whatever apartment I lived in at the time seemed to attract the late night crowd, and I would prepare snacks with whatever ingredients we had in the fridge/pantry (it also helped to have a classically trained chef as a roommate for a brief stint). At some point, I started hosting/cooking Sunday Brunch on the regular for Giants games, the occasional dinner party, and it was all downhill from there. I think cooking is like anything else: if you’re passionate about something, you focus, you work hard at it, you’re going to get good at it eventually.

LJ: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?

    I know I’m supposed to say something chefy like preserved lemon or fish sauce, but it’s beans! I challenge any chef to go to Rancho Gordo and not get excited. Beans are so versatile. At the start of the pandemic, I went to RG and bought 30 lbs of beans. When the box came and I opened it up (and was obviously very excited), the kids looked at me like I was crazy.

LJ: What part of meal prep do you like to do the night before?

    Overnight prep can be a touchy subject for home cooks. I used to be intimidated by dishes that required/benefitted from overnight prep, thinking it was just more work. And then I figured out what could be better when you have a bunch of people coming over, than a dish that’s already half finished? When we’re doing a big meal with a lot of dishes, I specifically try to stagger prep, pairing dishes that can almost be totally finished ahead of time (e.g., bean salad), with those that require a lot of last minute TLC (e.g., seared sesame crusted tuna).

LJ: Have you ever cooked at a restaurant?

    In August of 2011, Hurricane Irene was headed for NYC. Our friend, Gabe Stulman, owns several restaurants in the West Village. In anticipation of the storm, he closed all of the restaurants, but one: Joseph Leonard. He also gave his staff the option to go home, b/c he didn’t know what would happen with the subways. All but a handful took him up on his offer, which left Gabe pretty short-staffed. We finished the menu just before five, prepped for an hour, and opened the doors at 6. We did a messy three turns between 6 and 10 PM when the cops shut us down and told everyone to go home before the storm. It was really hard, but it was raucous for those four hours, and SO MUCH fun.

LJ: What is the easiest thing to make if you’re a beginner (ahem) and want to make one thing for guests

    Assuming pasta w/ butter is off the table… I would say for the protein, either tuna or skirt steak. Seared tuna is typically a fan favorite, and doesn’t require more than a healthy dusting of kosher salt, olive oil, and 1-1½ mins/side in a super hot pan. Skirt is such a forgiving cut; marinate it in soy sauce, dark brown sugar, olive oil and a couple smashed garlic cloves for 4-6 hours, throw it on the grill or a super hot pan for ~ 4 mins/side (aiming for 135℉ for medium-rare), let it rest for 5 mins, and you’re done. The tuna I would pair with asparagus, blanched for 1½ mins, then tossed with a couple ice cubes, champagne/rice vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The steak: some bitter greens, watercress or arugula, tossed w/ a light vinaigrette and maybe some pickled shallots.

LJ: What is your favorite cookbook right now?

    This changes all the time, but right now, it’s between Eating Out Loud and Nothing Fancy. The recipes in these two books are incredibly accessible, while at the same time, full of inspiration.

LJ: What is the most challenging part about cooking for a dinner party?

    Planning. I’d also say it’s the most underrated. I plan a lot more than I used to and I think that’s enabled me to enjoy myself a lot more, instead of spending the whole party stressing about getting the food on the table.

LJ: What is your food shopping strategy?

    There are times to go online -- hard-to-find pantry items, beans, not locally caught sushi-grade fish, yuzu-- but otherwise I like to maintain a stocked pantry, and shop local and fresh for protein and produce.

LJ: What would be your last meal?

    Lasagne Bolognese.

LJ: Favorite cocktail?

    Mezcal Negroni (recipe below).

LJ: Who is your dream chef to cook with?

    Woof, I don’t know. Samin Nosrat (I could’ve easily said Salt Fat Acid Heat above for my favorite cookbook)? She’s so passionate about food and just seems like she’s always having fun with it.

LJ: Last Question! What was the best meal of your life?

    I’ve been fortunate to eat a lot of great meals over the years. It’s really hard to pick “the best”, but a couple dishes that stick with me… Eel, Pork Belly and Avocado Hand Roll, the sadly defunct Chez Sardine, NYC (the chef, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly, has since opened Marconi in Montreal where you can still go to sample his latest genius creations). Trotter Risotto, Le Club Chasse et Pêche, Montréal. Spicy Pork Sausage and Rice Cakes, Momofuku Ssam Bar, NYC. Charcuterie Plate, Le Quartier Francais, Franschhoek. Halibut with Sauce “Proposal”, Forgione, NYC. Duck Carnitas, Cosme, NYC.

Recipe Mezcal Negroni

While this isn’t exactly a Negroni, it is very similar in its construction. We substitute mezcal for gin for a smokier profile, Aperol for Campari, as the sweetness of the Aperol pairs better with the smokiness of the mezcal, and Cynar for vermouth as it’s just a hell of a lot more interesting. We finish the whole thing with coffee and cocoa bitters because why not?

A recipe by
Ingredients List
  • 1.25 oz. mezcal
  • 1.25 oz. Aperol
  • 1.25 oz. Cynar
  • 1 eye dropper full coffee and cocoa bitters
  • Orange twist
    Stir the first three ingredients in a rocks glass filled with ice. Add the bitters and garnish with the orange twist.

Playlist Dinner With Friends

The CHEF's go to playlist to take him through prep, dinner and end of night shenanigans.
Some of his favorite songs that bring up memories of past dinners that were a blast and of many more to come.


chef phillips PICKS for his TABLE