IN THE KITCHEN WITH CHEF JOHN POIARKOFF
The Executive Chef at The Pines discusses his ingredient-driven cooking philosophy and shows us how to sear steak using a blow torch.
There are few places in the city to enjoy a foie gras terrine accompanied by Drake's latest album. The Pines
, an innovative, yet understated restaurant in Gowanus, brings fine dining to Brooklyn, but without any of Manhattan's airs.
When Executive Chef John Poiarkoff left his Sous Chef position at Danny Meyer's The Modern, he sought a place to expand his culinary prowess, while avoiding the oft-accompanying affectations. Coincidentally, a new spot was opening just a few blocks from his apartment, whose owners shared a near identical vision.
After joining The Pines
as its inaugural Sous Chef in 2012, Chef Poiarkoff recently took over the kitchen, adding a heightened level of refinement to both the menu and service. Experimental and ever-changing in its first two years, John has helped the restaurant to find a more consistent voice - one rooted in his personal cooking philosophy that places ingredients at the center.
"Our food is first and foremost, ingredient-driven. We source great products, mostly from local farmers' markets, and treat them with respect," says the young chef. In fact, each menu item humbly bears the name of only one ingredient - "cabbage" or "lettuce" as the options for seasonal market vegetables.
Despite the modest descriptors, each menu item is far more nuanced than its name would suggest. Rooted in American cuisine, but borrowing from a range of global influences, the menu is eclectic and exciting - leveraging new techniques, unexpected flavor profiles and even a hint of novelty.
During our visit, John prepared his "beef tataki" - a thinly sliced, rare beef, paired with bonito mayo, charred leeks and spicy greens. Different from his brother Mike
, John embraces technology and new techniques in the kitchen, excitedly showing us his tool for vacuum-sealed marinades, and opting to use a blow-torch in place of a grill. His presentation is artful and precise, first painting the bonito mayo onto the plate, delicately placing each layer of beef and charred leeks, and finishing it off with a dusting of charred onion powder. The finished dish was equally beautiful and delicious - complex, but balanced, with complementary layers of spice, acidity and umami.
Read more from our conversation with the young chef and give a hand at his unique and delicious recipe for beef tataki. Also, be sure to check out our interview with John's brother Mike
, Executive Chef of Brooklyn's Vinegar Hill House.