Chef de Cuisine at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem, Adrienne Cheatham helped craft the special menu for the month of February 2016. To celebrate Black History Month the restaurant’s menu celebrates the “goddesses of the past, present and future” with a menu inspired by amazing black female chefs.
“We did a lot of research for this,” Cheatham told the Voice. “Some of these women contributed fifty or a hundred years ago, and some still contribute by changing texture, by adding something, by applying a new technique to make something more modern. What’s on each plate is from hundreds of years of hard work that inspires us still. This is not a Red Rooster menu. It’s a menu inspired by so many components of so many careers.”
The result is a $62, five-course dinner menu to be served at Red Rooster during the month of February, each dish highlighting a different chef’s story:
Chef Inspiration: Adrienne Cheatham
Amuse of Miss Adrienne’s Macarons that are savory: duck liver and aged balsamic topped with sea salt.
Chef Inspiration: Edna Lewis
Broiled oysters from the “Grande Dame” of Southern cooking.
Chef Inspiration: CJ Grant
Charred octopus with plantains, chickpeas and curry vinaigrette from one of Red Rooster’s line cooks.
Chef Inspiration: Leah Chase
Blackened catfish with Creole read beans and turnip greens from the 94 year old New Orleans restaurateur.
Chef Inspiration: Lena Richard
Beer-braised pork belly with creamed turnips, roasted baby turnips and smoked vinegar jus from another New Orleans chef.
Chef Inspiration: Nyesha Arrington
Coconut rice pudding with rum and corn flakes from LA-based super cool chef and former Top Chef contestant and chef/owner of Leona.
As Samuelsson explains, “You’re on a completely different grid in terms of your chances if you’re black, and yet another as a black woman, so your narrative as a chef is as tough as can be. This menu gave us the incredible opportunity to channel the inspiration and point of view of these kinds of chefs. These women — Edna, Leah, Adrienne, Lena, C.J., and Nyesha — they represent that narrative to me.”
Melissa Weller is the master baker, co-owner and keeper of the bagel and bakery program at Sadelle’s, a bakery and restaurant from Major Food Group located in the heart of SoHo. Working in a glass-enclosed bakery, located in the center of the dining room, Melissa is exactly where this former Per Se and Roberta’s baker should be: center-stage.
Weller graduated from New York City’s French Culinary Institute in 2004 and went to work for with the late great Gina DePalma at Babbo. When not working, Weller was baking bread at home, trying to figure out why “there were no good bakeries in New York City.”
Bloomberg calls her the “Bagel Whisperer” and found that Weller became an obsessive scholar of baking and its history. She developed doughs as she worked her way through reference books, including following every recipe from the great Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery, including one for bagels. When she arrived at Per Se in 2008, she instituted “deli day” for the staff meal on Fridays with - you guessed it - bagels.
In 2010 when she was pregnant with her son Wyatt, Weller left Per Se. While she wanted to launch her own business, she heard that Roberta’s in Bushwick was looking for a baker. “I could make my own bread, and nobody else’s bread, in a wood oven. Who would pass up that opportunity?”
By April of 2013, which was really before the current bagel hysteria kicked in, Melissa peddled her bagels to lines of people on weekends at Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s outdoor food market. Major Food Group’s Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick - with restaurants including Dirty French, ZZ’s Clam Bar and Carbone, Parm and Santina — recruited Weller for Sadelle’s.
“Think Barney Greengrass meets Balthazar,” explains Weller. Sadelle’s was simply supposed to be a bakery, but as Grubstreet put it, it’s more “bagelry, appetizing shop, upscale diner, and neighborhood bistro.”
Angela Dimayuga, the Executive Chef of Mission Chinese Food, knew she wanted to be a chef since childhood. She grew up in San Jose, California and went to college instead of culinary school, studying hotel and restaurant management.
She started as a line cook at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn and went to work as sous chef for Danny Bowien at the original Mission Chinese on the Lower East Side. When Bowien reopened Mission Chinese downtown between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges in 2014, Angela was named Executive Chef.
Dimayuga has big plans for Mission Chinese - including a Michelin Star - which based on her commitment, the restaurant and her food is well within reach.
She is a true businesswoman and is responsible for every single aspect of the business at Mission Chinese - from managing the team, working on design and managing food costs. She is up at 5:30 am on weekends for the Dim Sum Brunch.
Like many chefs who are working to change the industry for the better - including making sweeping changes in the kitchen culture that isn’t good for women OR men - Angela Dimayuga has already made a huge impact by voicing her opinion of what she calls “kamikaze kitchen culture.” As she told GrubStreet:
“We've been consciously planning to make our work-life balances more sustainable. I want it to be part of our dialogue for our mental health and happiness. It takes unlearning bad habits. It's also just that you can do better work when you've tried to sleep or eaten a proper dinner.We're not martyrs — that's not cool, and it's not sustainable. The way restaurants have been, historically, is that killing yourself is considered admirable. It's a kamikaze, basically — what are you doing?”
How cool is she? Other chefs love her and demonstrated in the veritable chef potluck that took place at Mission Chinese Food to celebrate Lunar New Year's Year of the Monkey. Here is who was there: Sqirl's Jessica Koslow, Vinegar Hill House's Jean Adamson, Tartine Bakery's Chad Robertson and Richard Hart, Achilles Heel's Lee Desrosiers, Saltie's Caroline Fidanza and Rebecca Collerton, El Rey's Gerardo Gonzalez, Contra's Jeremiah Stone, Table Table's Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo, David Tanis, Dimes' Alissa Wagner and Sabrina Sousa, and OddFellows Ice Cream Co.'s Sam Mason.
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