By Cait Rohan | May 6, 2016 | Food & Drink
We caught up with Pennsylvania chef Lee Chizmar just before his James Beard Foundation event next week to find out where he eats in NYC, what he thinks is a chef’s most important job, and why New York City could use some “high-end pierogies.”
Spring is in full force, which means a renewed focus on eating everything earthy and fresh. But with all this attention on fruits and vegetables, what about mushrooms? Enter Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based chef Lee Chizmar of Bolete, who will bring his Foraged Mushroom Feast to the James Beard House on Tuesday (May 10, members, $130; general public, $170; tickets on jamesbeard.org). Chizmar’s spread includes starters like mushroom tartare with capers, truffle aïoli, and quail egg on potato blini, and mains like a smoked mussel–calamari salad with beech mushrooms, pickled enoki mushrooms, dill, ginger, baby bok choy, black sesame vinaigrette, and crispy shallots.
We were able to catch Chizmar before the event to chat about his favorite places to eat in New York, why he thinks teaching young chefs is important, and what kind of food he thinks NYC needs next.
What is your favorite place to eat in New York and what do you order there?
LEE CHIZMAR: A hard one to answer—Prune (54 E. First St., 212-677-6221) is one of our go-to favorites. The simplicity of the food is always refreshing and it is ALWAYS delicious. And whatever is new, I love what [chef Gabrielle Hamilton] does with organ meats/sweetbreads.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York?
LC: Our friend Patrick Connolly just opened RIDER in Brooklyn (80 N. Sixth St., 718-210-3152)—a return to NYC rising star, but a huge talent nonetheless. He is a very talented chef and a genuinely nice human.
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be?
LC: Daniel Boulud. He is an icon for my generation of chefs. Someone that my father always talked about and who I have always revered. It is his work ethic and love of his craft. He is from an age when "celebrity" chef meant something entirely different than it does today.
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene?
LC: I am not sure that I have my finger on the pulse of this one—with two busy restaurants and two little ones it doesn't leave me much time for eating in the city, but I have a friend who keeps urging me to get to Jackson Heights for some of the best ethnic food. Some of my favorite places are hole-in-the-wall joints with amazing ethnic food.
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event?
LC: It is always such an honor—to be a part of the history of the house is always amazing. What I really love is being able to bring young cooks from our team with me that are cooking there for the first time; to be able to pass along an opportunity that I have been given and remind a young cook what we are really doing this for is a great feeling. I feel strongly that teaching is the most important job of a chef. And they get so excited—it’s fun to watch.
Can you share one of your signature recipes with us?
LC: Asparagus salad (see recipe below).
What kind of food does New York need more of?
LC: This seems an impossible to question to answer, in a city where you can get whatever you want. Maybe a restaurant centered in Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine—high-end pierogies for everyone!
4 ounces of white asparagus, blanched and cut in half lengthwise and cut on the hard bias
6 ounces of green asparagus, blanched and cut on the bias
4 ounces of roasted hen of the woods mushrooms
2 ounces of spring onion, sliced thin
2 ounces of diced bacon, rendered until crisp
1 Tablespoon of chiffonade parsley leaves
1 teaspoon of thinly sliced chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons of blended oil
1/4 teaspoon truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
4 pieces of country sourdough, sliced
4 each soft poached duck eggs
Sliced summer truffles
In a heavy bottom sauce pot, heat 2 quarts of water on high. Once water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and stir in 2 Tablespoons of distilled vinegar. In a separate saute pan, toast the 4 pieces of sourdough, until golden brown with butter or olive oil.
In a stainless steel mixing bowl, mix the asparagus, spring onion, hen of the woods mushrooms, bacon, oil, truffle oil, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Mix with a spoon until the mixture is coated evenly with the oil.
Next, poach the duck eggs in the simmering acidulated water for 1 to 1.5 mins, or until the whites of the duck egg are set and the yolk is still soft to the touch.
For plating, place the toast down in the center of the plate on the bias, place the soft poached egg down on one side of the toast, and the salad down over the other side. Garnish with sliced truffle and thinly sliced chives.