• at home with
    AT HOME & IN THE KITCHEN WITH DAN HOLZMAN
    Co-owner of The Meatball Shop prepares a Japanese-inspired meal, improvised in his charming and lush Brooklyn apartment.
    April 3, 2015  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    The Meatball Shop was really born from a set of ideals” says its chef and Co-Owner Daniel Holzman. Founded by two charismatic friends, who delivered pizzas together as teenagers, the owners' big personalities and charming backstory sometimes overshadow the duo's philosophy toward food. But after only a brief exchange of words with the restaurant's passionate chef, we quickly learned that The Meatball Shop concept runs much deeper than its playfulness and novelty.

    Chef Holzman's food philosophy is quite simple - “I don't like being wasteful or pretentious,” he says. Committed to designing an affordable menu using top quality ingredients, meatballs naturally lended themselves to this dual goal of quality and accessibility. “It wasn't that we necessarily wanted to open a meatball-centric restaurant,” he admits. “But when we thought about the idea, we realized how perfectly they fit with the type of restaurant we wanted to create.”

    Although meatballs are his claim to fame, Chef Holzman is quite the curious and versatile chef.
    Despite long hours at now six restaurants, he surprisingly finds time to cook for himself and friends at home, relishing the opportunity to explore new techniques. He keeps a vast collection of cookbooks and is never too proud to ask fellow chefs for advice or new ideas. Travel is another important source of inspiration. After a recent trip to Japan, he's developed a strong infatuation with the country's culture and cuisine, complemented by an impressive set of Japanese cookware.

    When asked to improvise a recipe during our recent visit to his Brooklyn apartment, a Japanese-inspired dashi is the first idea that comes to the chef's mind. He prepares a layered and hearty meal of a shiitake mushroom soup alongside steamed red snapper and a citrus salad - all using a single Donabe stoneware pot, with the help of a simple knife and cutting board.

    Learn how to prepare Chef-Holzman's Japanese-inspired meal, and sneak a quick peek into his charming and lush Brooklyn apartment.
  • You had an early start in the food industry, correct?

    Yea, I was delivering pizzas when I was 13 years old. I also worked for a Mexican restaurant, and then The Candle Cafe, where I started cooking. Later on, my friend's father got me a job at some fancy seafood restaurant where he was the maitre d'. It was unpaid, but I would go there after school just to learn. I ended up going to the Culinary Institute, largely at the chef's suggestion.

    I've just always loved to cook, and my mother was supportive of my interests at a very early age. Whenever I was curious, she would always encourage it. Like if I wanted to make fresh pasta, she'd buy me the equipment and we'd figure it out.

  • How would you describe your philosophy toward food?

    There's a lot that goes into the way I cook, but it all comes from one perspective - I don't like being wasteful or pretentious. I try to be thoughtful about the menu and always make best use of the ingredients. How do we design a menu that's inherently inexpensive so that we can afford to use the best quality ingredients? That's how we kind of decided upon meatballs. Because you're grinding the meat, you can use a cheaper cut of a really flavorful and quality meat. That's the way we look at everything. Certain vegetables are easier to grow and more abundant, and therefore less expensive. They require less labor in fields, but that doesn't make them any less delicious.

  • How do we design a menu that's inherently inexpensive so that we can afford to use the best quality ingredients? That's how we kind of decided upon meatballs.

  • What about the culture of your kitchen?

    Most of the places I've worked, my job was always the most important thing in my life. I think that your job can be the most important thing in your life, but we don't require that it is. The ideal for us is that people can be passionate about what they're doing, but still have fulfilling lives outside of work. From the very beginning, Mike and I have said if your employees are genuinely having a good time, that's going to translate. The whole idea is that when you come to The Meatball Shop, it should be like going to a friend's house - where people are having fun and everyone's stoked to be there.

  • How do you expand your knowledge base as a chef?

    Traveling. Making sure that I'm paying attention to what other people are doing. I think it's important to be a little more humble in your approach. I ask a lot of questions. I'm always cooking with other chefs. I'll even take classes every once in a while.

    I also read a ton of cookbooks. I have a huge collection. One of my favorites right now is Francis Mallmann's new book - “Mallmann on Fire.” It has about a hundred or so recipes, all prepared over an open fire.

  • “I think that your job can be the most important thing in your life, but we don't require that it is. The ideal for us is that people can be passionate about what they're doing, but still have fulfilling lives outside of work.”
    - Chef Daniel Holzman
  • Do you cook often at home?

    I enjoy cooking at home quite a bit. I find myself baking bread a lot, and I've developed a hobby of making hot sauces - pickling too.

    I've recently been cooking a lot with Japanese influences. I've always loved the food and the culture, but I took a trip to Japan last year, and that reinvigorated my interest. I have a lot of Japanese cookware too. It's really utilitarian and space efficient. I use my Donabe stoneware pot all the time. You can make rice or a broth in the pot and steam something simultaneously. And I love that you can serve right out of it.

  • Is it important to create a certain atmosphere at home?

    I don't like to have a ton of clutter. You may have noticed that I don't even have a coffee table or a side table. I like to create space, especially in NYC where apartments aren't huge.

    I like to have a lot of plants around. It gives me a weird feeling that the air is cleaner - regardless of whether or not it's true. And I don't have a TV, which really helps me to relax. There's no noise as I unwind or fall asleep.

  • I enjoy cooking at home quite a bit. I find myself baking bread a lot, and I've developed a hobby of making hot sauces - pickling too.

  • recipe
    Dashi with Steamed Snapper and Citrus Salad
    A layered and hearty Japanese-inspired recipe, improvised by Chef Holzman and prepared using his Donabe stoneware pot.
  • ingredients
    1 tbsp chopped ginger
    2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, tops quartered
    2 cups small red skin potatoes, halved lengthwise
    2 shallots, peeled and sliced
    1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
    2 filets red snapper, bones removed
    4 cups water
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    1/4 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup sweet mirin wine
    salt to taste
    Ingredients:
    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    2 tsp honey
    salt and pepper to taste
    Instructions:
    1. Combine oil, honey, salt, pepper.
    2. Slowly incorporate vinegar while whisking.
    3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Adjust to taste.
  • 1
    Bring water, vinegar, soy sauce and mirin to a boil. Add potatoes, mushrooms and shallots. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 min until potatoes are tender.
  • 2
    Generously salt red snapper and place on the steaming tray atop the simmering broth (a colander can be used in its place). Cover and steam fish for 7-10 min.
  • 3
    Remove from heat and add the sliced scallion to the broth. Ladle the dashi into bowls and if desired, serve atop rice. Snapper should be plated alongside the citrus salad.
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  • ingredients
    1 english cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
    2 naval oranges, peeled, quartered and sliced
    1 cup cilantro leaves
    1 cup scallions, thinly sliced
    1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
    3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    1 healthy pinch of salt
    1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
    Ingredients:
    2 tbs olive oil
    2 tbs apple cider vinegar
    2 tsp honey
    salt and pepper to taste
    Instructions:
    1. toss the ingredients in a bowl just before plating
    2. Slowly incorporate vinegar while whisking.
    3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Adjust to taste.
    instructions
    Toss the ingredients in a bowl, and set aside to plate alongside the steamed snapper.
  • “There's a lot that goes into the way I cook, but it all comes from one perspective - I don't like being wasteful or pretentious. I try to be thoughtful about the menu and always make best use of the ingredients.”
    - Chef Daniel Holzman
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