City Chefs Share Where They Shop When They Cook at Home

By Heather Holland on October 7, 2013 6:49am 

NEW YORK CITY — To cook like a chef, shop like one.

Whether chefs from the city's top restaurants are serving 100 people or dining alone, they carefully pick their ingredients so their dishes taste their best.

Trevor Kunk, the chef of Blue Hill, told DNAinfo New York his favorite standbys are Kips Bay's Kalutsyan's when he needs spices to bring out the flavor of a roasted chicken, Greenwich Village's Murray's Cheese when he wants to make a grilled cheese sandwich and the Union Square Greenmarket for almost everything else.

“I trust the people we have found over the years,” Kunk said of his favorite greenmarket vendors. “It’s always going to be very good quality and a happily raised bird or pig.”

Straight from the experts, here are more details on where to buy everything from Thai basil to fresh rib eye steaks:

Sean Rembold, chef at Marlow & Sons, shops seasonal ingredients:

On his days off, Rembold tries to stock his home fridge in Williamsburg with ingredients from nearby.

"I have a 1-year-old daughter, so I don't really want to go on the subway or go all the way to Manhattan," Rembold said.

He often picks up cheese and condiments at the Bedford Cheese Shop, at 229 Bedford Ave., and most Saturday mornings he grabs his jogging stroller and makes his way over to the Fort Greene Park Greenmarket with his daughter.

“I enjoy it more than the other greenmarkets because it has a way more down-to-earth feel,” said Rembold, whose favorite organic stand is Lucky Dog Farm, based in Hamden, N.Y. “It’s a little crowded, but they have fantastic produce.”

As the weather gets colder, Rembold, 37, expects to roast a lot of heavy, autumn fruits and vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, apples and pears, with simple preparations that don't keep him in the kitchen all day.

"I would rather spend my time outside hanging out with my family, rather than at the stove on my day off," he said.

 Trevor Kunk, chef of Blue Hill, chooses tomatoes at Union Square Greenmarket's Berried Treasures Farm for produce.
Trevor Kunk, chef of Blue Hill, chooses tomatoes at Union Square Greenmarket's Berried Treasures Farm for produce.
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DNAinfo/Heather Holland

Shanna Pacifico, chef at Back Forty West, builds meals around protein:

At SoHo’s Back Forty West, the centerpiece of each dish is usually the protein — and it’s no different for the chef when she goes home.

“I eat most of my meals at the restaurant, but when I do cook at home, I mainly focus on where I get my protein from, because that’s most important to me,” said Shana Pacifico, who lives in Bushwick with her dog, Nikko.

Her go-to spot for chicken and rib eye steak is Williamsburg's The Meat Hook, at 100 Frost St., where the animals are raised sustainably and locally and then are butchered in-house, she said.

“You can buy a less expensive meat and know the quality will still be there,” Pacifico said.

Once she decides on her protein, Pacifico, 34, prepares it simply, often for a dinner with her boyfriend or a casual meal with a few friends.

“I don’t fuss at home,” she said. "I want to grill something or roast something. I cook a lot of roasted chicken — you can season it, you can stuff it.”

Although Pacifico, whose family hails from Brazil, usually sticks to American food at home, she said she likes snacking on finds from the East Village's Sunrise Mart, a Japanese grocery at 29 Third Ave.

Her favorites are dried nori chips, made with little rice triangles wrapped in nori seaweed.

"I usually buy things that I've never heard of and open it as I'm leaving the store," Pacifico said.

Trevor Kunk, chef at Blue Hill, picks up family-friendly staples:

When Kunk buys groceries for his family, there's one staple he always makes sure to grab: milk.

To quench the thirst of his 4- and 6-year-old children, Kunk stops at Union Square Greenmarket's Ronnybrook Farm, where the milk comes in glass bottles that can be brought back to be refilled for $1.50 cheaper.

Kunk, who lives with his wife and kids in Clinton Hill, said the trips to the greenmarket have become a weekly tradition and "a way to give my wife some space on Saturday mornings and for me to have some one-on-one time with the kids.

"It then turned into our Saturday morning adventure," he added, "and getting the kids excited about food, particularly veggies, and having them meet the farmers at the stands."

The strawberries at the greenmarket's Berried Treasures Farm are a family favorite.

“They call them Tristars,” Kunk said. “What’s magical about it is that, because of where they’re situated in the Hudson Valley, they’re able to grow them three out of the four seasons. They're super tiny, but super delicious."

For another kids' favorite, grilled cheese, Kunk stocks up on mahon, which he describes as "floral and aromatic," from Greenwich Village's Murray's Cheese, at 254 Bleecker St.

"It's sold in different varieties of age," Kunk said. "They're both great for melting, but the younger of the two is a little soft and very good for melting."

And whenever he needs spices, Kunk heads to Kips Bay's Kalutsyan's, at 123 Lexington Ave.

"They have quite possibly the greatest assortment in all of New York," Kunk said. "It's got 15 varieties of peppercorns, different fennel seeds — it can be very overwhelming."

King Phojanakong, owner and chef of Kuma Inn, shops Chinatown for Asian favorites:

Phojanakong sticks to his Filipino and Thai roots, whether he's cooking at his restaurant or at home.

 “They call them Tristars,” said Blue Hill's chef Trevor Kunk said about the strawberries sold at the Union Square Greenmarket's Berried Treasures Farm. “What’s magical about it is that, because of where they’re situated in the Hudson Valley, they’re able to grow them three out of the four seasons. They're super tiny, but super delicious."
“They call them Tristars,” said Blue Hill's chef Trevor Kunk said about the strawberries sold at the Union Square Greenmarket's Berried Treasures Farm. “What’s magical about it is that, because of where they’re situated in the Hudson Valley, they’re able to grow them three out of the four seasons. They're super tiny, but super delicious."
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DNAinfo/Heather Holland

Recent home-cooked meals in the Peter Cooper Village apartment he shares with his wife and daughter have centered on noodles, because that's what his 3-year-old likes most at the moment.

"The other night, I got these fresh egg noodles [near] Chinatown, stir-fried some vegetables and made kind of a lo mein dish," said Phojanakong, 42. "She loved it."

For noodles and other staples, Phojanakong heads to the Lower East Side's Ken Hing market, at 247 Grand St. near Chrystie Street, where he can find six varieties of rice, fried and fresh tofu, pickled produce and a whole aisle dedicated to noodles.

"I buy everything there for the restaurant, and for home," Phojanakong said. "They have a huge pork selection and they make fresh egg noodles in-house every day."

Nearby at Bangkok Center Grocery, at 104 Mosco St. near Mott Street, Phojanakong picks up fresh chilis, lime leaves, Thai basil, fish sauces and curry, along with cooking equipment including his rice steamer and mortar and pestle.

"The owner will go back and forth from Thailand and bring back what he can," Phojanakong said. "You find things there that you won't find in a general market."

If Phojanakong has time, he stops by Tung Woo Co., at 230 Grand St., where he buys fresh tofu, tofu milk, fresh rice noodles and rice noodle rolls — which are made with thin, broad noodles, stuffed with shrimp, pork, beef or vegetables.

"My mother is from Philippines and my father is from Thailand," Phojanakong said. "So I grew up sampling everything."

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