• in the kitchen
    IN THE KITCHEN WITH MICHAEL CHERNOW
    Co-owner of The Meatball Shop shares one of his favorite recipes - prepared in his Brooklyn apartment, and made from vegetables grown in his upstate backyard.
    March 11, 2015  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    It's been five years since Michael Chernow founded The Meatball Shop with his lifelong buddy Dan Holzman. Inspired by meals he improvised while working at an Italian restaurant, the clever concept immediately evoked a rare fanaticism, especially uncommon for first-time restaurateurs. From day one, the original LES location had a perpetual line out the door (I personally remember skipping out of work and venturing halfway across town to avoid the long dinner waits). Six locations later, it's safe to say that the concept is no fleeting novelty.

    The restaurant's success sounds almost like a fairy tale, especially after hearing the owners' endearing backstory. Having started in the food business together at age 13, the friends daringly poured their lives' savings into a shared dream - one 20+ years in the making.

    Fast-forward half a decade, business is still flourishing, and life outside of work seems to be going equally well.
    Just a few days ago, Michael, along with wife Donna, welcomed a new addition to their family - son Finnley Hudson Chernow. And last summer, in advance of the expanding family, Mike and Donna purchased a second home Upstate, where they pass quiet weekends together, and tend to acres of farmland. Since launching The Meatball Shop, Michael has caught a bit of an entrepreneurial bug, working on a series of new projects, including a restaurant concept called Seamore, opening soon in Little Italy.

    We recently caught up with Mike in his Williamsburg apartment, as he prepared a farm fresh salad of Tuscan Kale, Delicata Squash and Wine Sap apples, all grown in his own backyard. While we dine, the native New Yorker reflects on five years at The Meatball Shop and his newfound life as a part-time country boy.

    Read more to learn the one of the restaurateur's favorite recipes, and catch a peek of his Brooklyn apartment.
  • Five years and six restaurants later, what do you attribute to TMS's success?

    Initially, the focus was to have one really amazing restaurant. We thought that maybe one day, we'd have a couple, but neither of us ever thought we'd get this type of attention.

    The concept was something new and fun, so word of mouth traveled quickly. And our story is also pretty unique - two best friends working in the restaurant business together for twenty years and then opening their own spot with their lives' savings. We literally poured everything we had into this business. I looked at my wife and said “I'm putting all of my eggs in this basket.” Fortunately, it worked out, you know?

    But we also have our PR firm to thank for a lot of the success. They really believed in the brand, the two of us, and put together a really brilliant rollout plan.

  • What's the biggest challenge working with your best friend?

    It can definitely be tough. I'd say the main challenge is a difference in communication styles. I'm like a glass half full guy, all the time - doesn't matter what the situation. Dan is often the opposite. It actually makes for a pretty good balance, but definitely can lead to arguments, haha.

    Learning how to navigate situations where there's a lot of emotions and money at stake is what makes a good business person - not letting emotions get in the way of making the right decisions. I struggle with that. Dan struggles with that. We're both learning. My goal is to be a zen person - one who can sit at a business table, always smile, but can make a decision solely based on what's best for the business.

  • “Initially, the focus was to have one really amazing restaurant. We thought that maybe one day, we'd have a couple, but neither of us ever thought we'd get this type of attention.”
    - Michael Chernow, Restaurateur
  • recipe
    Tuscan Kale and Delicata Squash Salad
    A simple recipe inspired by ingredients grown right in Michael's upstate backyard.
  • ingredients
    1 large bunch of tuscan kale, chopped
    1 delicata squash, thinly sliced
    2 wine sap apples, thinly sliced
    1/2 cup quinoa
    olive oil
    salt
    pepper
    1/4 cup apple cider vinaigrette
    Ingredients:
    2 tbs olive oil
    2 tbs 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.
    instructions
    1. Slice delicata into 1/4 in. thickness. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
    2. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until tender.
    3. Bring one cup of water to a boil. Add in 1/2 cup of quinoa and simmer until water has evaporated.
    4. Once cooled, toss chopped kale, squash, sliced apple and quinoa with apple cider vinaigrette.
  • We're able to grow all of our own ingredients, which is really nice. We have apple trees, we grew the squash, we grew the kale...I love being able to pull stuff out the ground and take it straight to the kitchen.

  • shop the story
    HANDSOME SALAD SERVEWARE
    Farm-fresh ingredients are only half the battle. If you're looking to serve Michael's Kale Salad recipe at your next dinner party, be prepared with a handsome set of serveware.
  • “My goal is to be a zen person - one who can sit at a business table, always smile, but can make a decision solely based on what's best for the business.”
    - Michael Chernow
  • Are you involved at all with the menu?

    The truth is, the menu sort of came from my diet. Dan's the chef of the company, but I worked at an Italian restaurant for a really long time, and would always eat meatballs with tomato sauce, broccoli and spinach. So I came up with the idea of meatballs, but Dan and I evolved the concept together.

    I just thought meatballs would be a fun thing to do. Everyone loves meatballs, and there are so many different things you can do with them. We went back and forth for months trying to figure out what we were going to serve at this restaurant - how to make the menu a bit more interesting than just meatballs. But it worked out. Since opening, we've added brunch to the menu, but we honestly haven't changed much else over the past five years.

  • Do you cook a lot at home?

    We actually closed on a home upstate last summer. While I'm there, I cook like a maniac. It's an old house with a few acres of farmland, so we're able to grow all of our own ingredients, which is really nice. We have apple trees, we grew the squash, we grew the kale. We didn't grow the quinoa though, haha.

    This kale looks so good. I love being able to pull stuff out the ground and take it straight to the kitchen. It's like my favorite thing to do on the planet, and and there's no comparison with the taste.

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