Profession: Chef de Cuisine at the Park Hyatt New York's restaurant, The Back Room
Location: New York, New York
Chad Brauze, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, cut his teeth at Daniel Boulud’s Upper East Side restaurant Daniel, where he quickly worked his way up the ranks to Sous Chef. He soon went off to Paris to work a series of apprenticeships in Michelin-starred kitchens such as Ledoyen, George V, and Pierre Gagnaire, and later in kitchen of Ferran Adria and at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. He then attended Columbia University where he obtained a degree in Math and Computer Science. And most recently, he led the kitchen at Rotisserie Georgette, earning the restaurant a 2 star review from Pete Wells.
What are you most proud of?
Inspired by Jacques Pépin’s autobiography, I took a four-year break in my career to earn a degree at Columbia University, and it was probably the most challenging undertaking of my life. The classes are filled with ultra-competitive individuals. To beat the curve, I studied 10-12 hours a day – learning had to become my passion. It was not unlike the focus necessary to be a chef in New York.
What is your favorite thing to splurge on?
Kitchen equipment and cookbooks! I always buy high quality kitchen goods. For cookware, All-Clad, Staub, and Le Cresuset are great. Always remember, heavier is better when buying pots. Japanese chef knives are the best of the best (you can find them at Korin in New York). Peugot makes pricey but long-lasting pepper grinders. As for cookbooks, I buy a few a week. My latest acquisitions are A Geography of Oysters, The River Cottage Curing and Smoking Handbook, and J. Kenji López-Alt’s new book.
What was the best gift you’ve ever received, and who was it from?
A few years back I had the opportunity to work with Bill Buford in a cookbook project with Daniel Boulud. Bill and I spent a lot of time tracking down classic recipes for Daniel in old tomes like Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire and Ali-Bab’s Gastronomie Pratique. To commemorate our time together, Bill tracked down and presented me with an original printing of Larousse Gastronomique. I flip through it often for inspiration.
When traveling, what do you never leave home without?
I’m always cooking, even when I travel, so when we pack (one should note that my wife Ashley is a pastry chef) we always bring along a small kit of tools for cooking. It’s just the basics: a Nenox Gyuto (chef knife), a small bird’s beak paring knife, a Kuhn Rikon peeler, a Japanese Benriner, a fish spatula, and a few other essentials - all pieces that we use daily in our profession. Everything is contained in a nice leather roll-up that my friend Cory Fair of Butcher & Baker made for us. The roll looks great and the tools inside let us accomplish almost anything that we would want to create. We’ve used it to roast Day Boat Hamachi in Maui, Seviche shrimp in Costa Rica, and smoke pork in the Catskills. We even take it to relatives house when we visit!
Where is your all-time favorite travel destination?
I lived in Rosas, Spain for a good part of 2007. Just around the mountain from Roses is a small town called Cadaqués that we would take the local bus to. You descend down a winding road directly to the coast. Picturesque white buildings line the hills, and small boats bob with the current in the harbor. When I need a moment to relax, I think about sitting on the little beach in Cadaqués drinking ice cold “claras” - lemony beers sold in the afternoon.
Describe the perfect weekend in New York City.
I love New York City. I’ve been here since 2003, and it’s hard to imagine moving to somewhere else. I plan almost all my days off around food. A perfect weekend here starts Friday afternoon picking up smoked salmon for Saturday’s breakfast at Murray’s Sturgeon Shop in the Upper West Side and housemade cream cheese from Murray’s Cheese (no relation) in the village. I get my “Everything Bagels” on Saturday morning bagels at Lenny’s on 98th. Lunch would be something easy to eat with beer – I’m partial to Ssäm Bar. The Chef de Cuisin, Matt Rudofker, always has something new and exciting on the menu. Last weekend he had about six different Southern-style smokehouse hams for me to try. Saturday evening starts with drinks by Xavier Hérit at Wallflower in the West Village – tell him what you like and he will put something exciting together. For dinner, I’d head across town for the Grandma Pie at GG’s in Alphabet City. Bobby Hellen makes these things -best thick pizza in the city. Sunday mornings are best spent drinking pourover coffee with a NY Times at Irving Farm. Lunch is a trip to Woodside, Queens on the 7 train for Thai at SriPraPhai – always get the green mango salad and the sweet duck sausage with cucumber, onions, lime, and chili. Sunday dinner should be simple but elegant, maybe an early reservation at the Nomad or a trip out to DUMBO in Brooklyn for roasted chicken at Atrium .
What is your favorite neighborhood in New York? And why?
I’m a big proponent of Morningside Heights. I like the tall, statuesque pre-war buildings that line up Riverside, West End, and Broadway. I like that Morningside Heights is slightly quieter than the rest of the city. Riverside Park and Morningside Park are both less traveled than Central Park and great for running. The Columbia campus is an amazing place to relax.
What makes someone a local in New York City?
To be a local in NY, one only need be here long enough to become opinionated. Once you’ve got your favorite bar, your late night bodega, your best greenmarket, and your cheap pizza slice chosen – you are nearly a New Yorker.
Where is the most unique shopping experience in NYC?
JB Prince on the eleventh floor of 36 E 31ST. They sell high-end cooking gear. This isn’t Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Professional cooks select everything in the store. As you enter the boutique you see business cards from all the top chefs that have stopped in at some point in their career. It’s like a Mecca for visiting cooks.
What do you dislike most about the city?
New York changes too fast. Every week there is a new restaurant to try, a new bar for drinks, etc. I rarely have the time to go back more than once or twice because I’m afraid that I will miss out on something else!