Sep 10, 2014
The 50 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Food
There is a lot that people mock about the Brooklyn food and drink scene—particularly the food scene. It’s too pretentious about things like seasonality, people scoff. It’s too trend-conscious, other lament. Why does everything have to be “artisanal,” many think. Kale, some spit out, as if even naming that most ubiquitous of leafy greens is a curse unto itself. And while we understand this type of annoyed commentary, we don’t feel inclined to participate in it because we find it kind of amazing that—in just a few short years—Brooklyn has managed to become a culinary stronghold with a defined identity unique to its own sensibilities.
But, of course, Brooklyn didn’t become this food-and-drink wonderland out of nowhere. Countless people have worked—and worked hard—to do the at times unenviable task of setting up restaurants and bars, toiling away in the kitchen for hours on end, testing recipe after recipe before finally landing on the magical combination of ingredients. And so these are the people we want to celebrate, the ones who have helped make the local dining and drinking scene into one that is talked about world-wide. After all, Brooklyn is not just about home-brewed kombucha and kale salads. But even if it were? That would be just fine too, because those things can be delicious. Here then, we celebrate the 50 men and women who have made their mark and continue to influence Brooklyn’s dining and drinking scene in myriad ways.
Do or Dine
This young chef became known nationally after winning the eighth season of Food Network Star, but his heart is in Brooklyn, where he runs the innovative Bed-Stuy eatery Do or Dine. Warner’s cuisine runs towards the experimental and playful, like the delicious and heart-stopping foie gras donut he collaborated with Dough to bring to the Do or Dine menu. “Ideally my last meal would be my executioner,” Warner joked. “If that wasn’t possible, I’d probably want a nice bowl of pho with my girlfriend.” And if the last meal was in Brooklyn? “The wings, beer, and shot combo at Suzume.”
Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, Roman’s, Achilles Hill
Since 1998, Andrew Tarlow has been one of the heavyweight restaurateurs in Brooklyn, turning the borough into a destination for culinary experimenters and curious diners alike. These days he runs a veritable empire of trailblazing places, including Marlow & Sons, Roman’s, Reynard in the Wythe Hotel, Diner, and cocktail bar Achilles Heel. From Fort Greene to Williamsburg, Tarlow’s outposts continue to have a knack for not only serving Brooklyn fare that satisfies the masses, but pioneering whatever food trends that the rest of the city will shortly become obsessed with. Tarlow’s particular brand of high-end New American comfort food has spread like wildfire around the city and helped define the kind of plates people refer to as “Brooklyn-style.”
Along with Andy Curtin, former freelance writer Aaron Lefkove is the brains behind beloved, cozy Gowanus seafood restaurant Littleneck, which opened in 2011. In the time since they first launched their café focusing on fresh fruits de mer, the restaurant has grown into a hotspot for the clam-seeking populace of South Brooklyn, who come for both the rib-sticking plates and the breezy, beach-y atmosphere. This year, the two opened an outpost of their successful diner in Greenpoint, serving their reimagining of New England seafood for the Brooklyn crowd. Try their Full Belly Ipswich Clam Roll; we promise you won’t be disappointed.
Setting out to reinvent the deli in New York City is a bold move, but Noah Bernamoff, who co-founded Montreal-style eatery Mile End and bakery Black Seed, managed to make Brooklynites reconsider what a smoked meat sandwich or bagel with butter should taste like. Serving up Jewish comfort cuisine with a sophisticated edge, Bernamoff has brought Montreal cuisine into fashion in our own fair borough.
Chef/owner of Pok Pok Ny
After spending years as the toast of Portland, the James Beard Award-winning, best-selling-cookbook-writing Andy Ricker is now a fully-entrenched Brooklyn boy. He essentially transformed the Columbia Waterfront District into a delectable slice of Southeast Asia, with perennially-packed outposts of his flagship eatery, Pok Pok, as well as his bar bites and drinking vinegar cocktail temple, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and coming this fall, a branch of his originally LES-located noodle spot, Pok Pok Phat Thai.
Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo
Frankie’s, Prime Meats, Cafe Pedlar
“The Franks” of Frankie’s Spuntino, Prime Meats, and Café Pedlar are childhood friends and grown-up chefs who have channeled their shared love of food into a mini empire of the kinds of restaurants that instantly become fast favorites. Even years after opening, Frankie’s and Prime Meats frequently have long waits for a table because the food, drinks, and atmosphere are unparalleled in their unfussy elegance and uncompromised flavors. If you want to try and replicate the food at home, the Frankie’s cookbook is one of our favorite and most-thumbed through (and sauce-splattered) of all. Just be sure to pick up some of their house-sold excellent olive oil to cook with.
Author, bartender at South, Drink columnist New York Times Magazine
Rosie Schaap is the best current embodiment of the drinking/literary tradition in Brooklyn today. Not only is Schaap a regular bartender at South, one of the greatest neighborhood bars in the borough, but she is also the author of one of our favorite memoirs to come out in recent years, Drinking with Men. Beyond that, though, Schaap’s Drink column in the New York Times magazine is a place in which she can share her thoughts on cocktails—both trendy and classic—and relate stories about things like why you should celebrate Burns Night every year, thus keeping this borough’s drinking and literary traditions alive and further entwined.
For more than a decade, Julie Reiner has been bringing her quirky, sophisticated touch to New York’s cocktail lounges. She’s revitalized the cocktail lounge by taking a culinary approach to the traditional mixed drink. As the head of Mixtress Consulting and owner/beverage director of the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan and the Clover Club in Brooklyn, Reiner remains one of the heavy-hitters in all things boozy, delicious, and unexpected.
Owners of Franny’s, Marco’s and Brooklyn Larder
Ten years after opening Franny’s, their seminal, Park Slope farm-to-table pizzeria, husband-and-wife team Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg show no signs of slowing down. They recently launched Marco’s, a rustic, Italian trattoria, and are keeping the shelves stocked with luscious local cheese and provisions at their fine foods store, Brooklyn Larder.
Runner & Stone
Are you gluten-free? Well, we’re sorry for you, we really are. Because some of the best bread in the city is being baked right here in Gowanus at Peter Endriss and Chris Pizzulli’s Runner & Stone. Each loaf is exemplary and stands as a testament to why, no matter what health crazes or nutrition fads are currently sweeping the nation, bread will never be abandoned entirely, or even by a little. Try and and all their breads, but pay special attention to the buckwheat baguette, which has a nutty flavor and perfectly chewy texture that we just can’t get enough of.
Pacifico’s Fine Foods
Earlier this year, when Pacifico left her longtime post at Back Forty West, we wondered where she would pop up next. It didn’t take long to find out—this summer, Pacifico opened Pacifico’s Fine Foods, an eatery that fuses American and Brazilian cuisines in Crown Heights. The creative menu includes dishes like yuca-pork fritters, an African-Brazilian seafood stew of shellfish in a spicy coconut broth, quinoa-crusted mahi mahi with banana and sweet potato, and a cucumber and buttermilk gazpacho.
Ben Flanner is living many people’s close-held, secret dream (if you believe the mythology of what people in Brooklyn are supposed to dream about): He is an urban farmer. After co-founding New York City’s first-ever rooftop farm in 2009, he has added a second farm, an apiary, and a mushroom-growing operation, all within the five boroughs. In addition to supplying restaurants with fresh, hyper-local, organic produce, the farmers and volunteers of Brooklyn Grange can be found at farmer’s markets around the city, putting smiling faces and dirt-caked hands to the delicious fruits (and vegetables!) of their labor.
Dale Talde (pictured), John Bush, and David Massoni
Talde, Pork Slope, Thistle Hill Tavern
It was just under three years ago that Dale Talde, John Bush, and David Massoni opened Talde on 7th Avenue in South Slope, thus introducing the first buzz-worthy restaurant in that former fine dining dessert. And then, within the span of ten months, the trio opened Pork Slope on 5th Avenue and Talde signed on to help with Thistle Hill, also on 7th Avenue. All three restaurants have since become mainstays in the Park Slope dining scene (which, yes, used to be an oxymoron of sorts), spawning hordes of regular customers who just can’t stay away from the pretzel pork-and-chive dumplings at Talde, nachos at Pork Slope, or salt-and-pepper fries at Thistle Hill.
Executive Director of Heritage Radio
Frankly, Fairbanks should occupy at least three spots on this list. She’s the executive director of (and frequent host on) Heritage Radio, an all-food podcast station located at the back of Roberta’s in Bushwick, which effectively changed the face of food media. She’s also a former chef and pig farmer, and current project director of No Goat Left Behind, Heritage Foods’ month-long initiative to introduce goat meat to American diners, and provide a sustainable end market for dairy animals. If that’s not a food influencer, we don’t know what is.
Dough Donuts, La Newyorkina Paletas
The case for donuts as the best pastry is objectively beyond reproach, and of late, we here in Brooklyn have been graced with a veritable revolution in donut possibilities. The same creative intention and high-quality ingredient sourcing that have made “foodie” a term we’re all familiar with can now be seen in fried circles of dough. Leading the charge is Fany Gerson, whose Bed-Stuy shop, Dough, is where diets go to die. Your classic sour cream cake donut is wonderful, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t have dulce de leche, chocolate with Earl Grey, and hibiscus donuts, too. If you need some lighter fare, Gerson also operates La Newyorkina, purveyor of Mexican paletas. She’s nothing if not balanced.
Food writer, founder of Meatopia
Ozersky certainly hasn’t minced words about his bitter exile from Manhattan to Brooklyn (he was priced out of his longtime East Village digs, and forced to find refuge in Crown Heights). But once he’s done crying over his Zebra Cakes (don’t ask), we’re convinced he’ll feel obligated, nay, inclined, to use his pen — and his all-meat festival-planning prowess — for the good of the borough.
The Meat Hook
Superstar butcher Tom Mylan helped spearhead the movement for sustainable nose-to-tail carnivorous eating, and teaches classes on the art of meat cutting and cooking at his shop in Williamsburg, The Meat Hook. His choice for his last meal: “Two 99 cent bean and cheese burritos from Del Taco. Extra cheese. Extra green sauce. Oh, and a giant diet Pepsi.” And if the last meal had to be in Brooklyn? “A lamb burger, an order of spicy lamb noodles, tiger salad and marinated cucumbers from Xi’an Famous Foods on Beadle street in Greenpoint.”
You might know food critic Francis Lam from his stint as a judge on Top Chef Masters, where he weighs in on the culinary offerings of contestants alongside Gail Simmons and Curtis Stone, or from his sharp writing at places like Gourmet, Salon, and Gilt Taste. Now Lam works as the editor-at-large for cookbook publishers Clarkson Potter, where he helps commission projects that use a narrative nonfiction lens on food, like the upcoming Koreatown, USA.
Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern
Remember how in the late 90s/early 00s it was impossible to go to a restaurant in New York without seeing some iteration of a beet and goat cheese salad on the menu? If you don’t remember this, ohmygod you’re so young, but also, it’s pretty clear that the beet and goat cheese combo was replaced a couple years ago by another trendy salad: the kale salad. And if it’s possible to say any one restaurant was responsible for the kale salad phenomenon, it would have to be Cobble Hill’s Battersby. After all, their kale salad has been written up everywhere and was, for a time, the most popular dish on their incredibly solid menu. So, you know, if you like kale (and who doesn’t!), the next time you see Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern walking down the street, thank them. They’ve done a real service for Brooklyn. They really have.
Founder, Cherry Bombe
Kerry Diamond had already built up quite an impressive resume, as co-owner of a slew of top, Brooklyn restaurants, former Beauty Director at Harper’s Bazaar, and Vice President of Public Relations at Lancome. But who would have imagined that in just over a year, she’d launch a game-changing, women-in-food focused publication called Cherry Bombe, and in doing so, seemingly pull print magazines back from the edge of extinction? And the biannual glossy has proved only a tipping point, sparking revitalized, passionate conversations about females in the restaurant industry, spawning its own Heritage Radio podcast (Radio Cherry Bombe) and inspiring a day-long conference, the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, focused on celebrating (you guessed it!) women in food.
Mimi’s Hummus, The Castello Plan, and Market
It was only five years ago that Avi Shuker, with his girlfriend Mimi Kitani and Farm on Adderley alum Ben Heemskerk, opened Mimi’s Hummus, later followed by The Castello Plan and Market, a delicatessen and craft beer store, thus contributing to turning Cortelyou Road into a real foodie destination. The origin behind this mini-empire is simple enough: Shuker tells us, “We decided to open Mimi’s Hummus because friends and family raved about Mimi’s food.” But of course, if the secret to opening a successful restaurant was as simple as friend and family liking your cooking, well, we’d have a lot more successful restaurants. Rather, Shuker and his partners managed to see the future potential for their businesses in a neighborhood in dire need of more options. They seized that opportunity and have since managed to expand on it successfully, to the satisfaction of themselves and their neighbors.
What is there left to say about Garrett Oliver? If Brooklyn has become the site of some great craft beer, we have Oliver in large part to thank for that—he’s treating brewing as a creative pursuit since long before the craft beer movement began. Brooklyn Brewery turned 25 last year, and is the longest-running craft brewery in the borough. Oliver has been the brewmaster there since 1994, publishing three books and racking up awards with flavorful reinterpretations of classic brewing styles. This year, Oliver won a coveted James Beard Award in the “Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional” category. We’re all better drinkers for his presence.
Chef/owner of Tanoreen
Forget about red sauce. After opening in a tiny storefront on Bay Ridge’s resolutely Italian Third Avenue in 1998, Bishara effectively convinced Manhattanites to brave the long R-train ride into Brooklyn, for crusty kibbe, tahini-laked brussels sprouts, and silken babaganouj. She’s since expanded Tanoreen into a glittering space three times it’s original size, and helped change the face of Middle Eastern cuisine throughout the city, as being about so much more than greasy takeout kebobs, grape leaves and hummus.
Evan and Oliver Haslegrave
Interior Designers, hOmE
Close your eyes and envision the prototypical Brooklyn restaurant and bar. All the familiar elements are there: white tile, reclaimed wood, vintage fixtures, salvaged decor, an aesthetic that seems old but is made new by recreation, recombination, and reimagining. It’s a look that owes a lot to Evan and Oliver Haslegrave, two brothers who run a design firm, called hOmE, whose commercial portfolio includes classy North Brooklyn spots like Manhattan Inn, Torst, Alameda, duckduck, and Cherry Izikaya. They’ve also crossed the river to work on Goat Town, Against Nature, Elsa, and Dos Caminos.
Jean Adamson and Sam Buffa
Vinegar Hill House
Before Vinegar Hill House opened five years ago, you would’ve been hard-pressed to drag anyone who didn’t already live in the area out to its secluded location in Vinegar Hill, the tiny neighborhood right next to DUMBO. But you only would’ve needed to take that friend there once before they started begging you to go out there more, because once you’ve tried the food at Vinegar Hill House, you’ll never want to stop eating it. Every dish is basically created to be its own Platonic ideal, so you’ll probably never have a better pork chop than the one on offer there. And unlike many places where the menu is constantly changing, Vinegar Hill House’s is just constant. Which is a good thing! Sometimes you just want to have that perfect pork chop. This is where you’ll find it.
Tiny Cobble Hill gem Brucie is set underground in a discreet location on a busy stretch of Court Street. But there is nothing low-key about the flavors that chef Zahra Tangorra combines in her innovative riffs on classic foods. While nominally Italian, much of the food isn’t like what’s served at old-school red sauce joints like Williamsburg’s Bamonte’s (though that is one of Tangorra’s all time favorite spots); rather, delightfully shocking flavor combinations abound (think peas, Cheddar cheese, sesame seeds, tuna conserva). Of course, there are some classic versions of traditional dishes, like one of the best spaghetti and meatballs we’ve ever had, or a beautifully done eggplant Parmigiana on a plate that practically covers the table. All in all, there are few places like Brucie—and few chefs like Tangorra—who manage to effortlessly balance the old and new. We hope hers is an influence that continues to spread far and wide.
Owner of Fette Sau
Brooklyn has become a bona fide BBQ mecca in the last five years or so. Which means, it’s easy enough to dismiss Fette Sau as just another smoke-ringed, finger-licking option, instead of the whole hog-loving location that started it all. And we have prolific restaurateur Joe Carroll to thank for his far-sightedness, showing the world that with some careful sourcing, a bit of space, a fair amount of time and a whole lot of pit smoke, BK can get down all of those adulated barbecue destinations, located South of the Mason Dixon line.
Roberta’s and Blanca
Roberta’s, Carlo Mirarchi’s Bushwick pizzeria, has come to symbolize a Times Style section idea of the neighborhood—art-directed hipness, rural-urban decor, rooftop-to-table philosophy, mildly impudent service. What gets lost in this discussion, though, is the food: Roberta’s is the kind of pizza spot whose casual appearance belies the incredible feat of combining simple, high-quality ingredients into original and delicious food. In the back, you’ll find Blanca, a chef’s table with a more conspicuously striking 22-course tasting menu and a Michelin star.
Chef, cookbook author
Julia Turshen first came on our radar as the co-author of Gwyneth Paltrow’s two cookbooks, My Father’s Daughter and It’s All Good. Now, we know, we know, you’re already dismissive because of the words “Gwyneth” and “Paltrow.” Well, don’t be! Those cookbooks have lots of great recipes in them, in no small part thanks to Turshen. Turshen, though, does a lot more than just co-author celebrity cookbooks: she hosts a weekly radio show on Radio Cherry Bombe, she has worked on cookbooks with everyone from Mario Batali to Jody Williams, she’s working on her own book for release in 2016, and she has the kind of food lover’s Instagram that makes you want to stop looking at photos of food and actually make some. Now that’s some influence.
Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø
Torst and Luksus
Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø are the two-man team behind Greenpoint’s Tørst, which means “thirst” in Danish, now an unomittable landmark on the craft beer map of Brooklyn. With Burns on food and Jarnit-Bjergsø on beer, Tørst is a gastronomic experience unlike any other in Brooklyn—and that includes other notable craft beer meccas. The rotating selection of beers never fails to impress even the most savvy brew aficionado, and the new Nordic cuisine provided at Luksus is as good as it gets. Plus, the interior design alone is worth a trip on the (once again as-functional-as-it’s-gonna-get) G train, and ditto for the glassware. It’s just beautiful—or, as the Danes would say, smuk!
Chef/owner of Take Root
If you’ve ever seen Kornack’s competition-winning appearance on Chopped, you’d know the fiercely talented and independent young chef was destined to work for herself. That’s why she used some of that award money to fund her first solo venture, Take Root, a 12-seat tasting room operating out of her wife’s former yoga studio, three evenings a week.
Di Fara Pizza
Dom DeMarco is a man of mystery. Since 1964, he’s operated his small pizzeria on a corner in Midwood, piling up accolades and acclaim along the way. Di Fara has been labeled the best pizza in New York by tastemakers and publications as varied and storied as the New York Times, Zagat, Serious Eats, Frommer’s, New York magazine, Bill de Blasio, and Anthony Bourdain. DeMarco emigrated from the Province of Caserta, in southern Italy, in 1959; after buying out his founding partner in 1978, he’s run Di Fara as a family-operated business, famously making every pie himself. It’s developed a slightly overinflated reputation, but don’t get us wrong—every cheesy, garlicky slice is worth the wait.
Mike and Ben Wiley
Bar Great Harry, Mission Dolores, Owl Farm, Glorietta Baldy
Brothers Mike and Ben Wiley are the barons of craft beer in Brooklyn. With four (four!) incredible craft-heavy beer bars in Cobble Hill, Park Slope, and Bed Stuy, these two have stayed closely in step with Brooklyn’s craft beer scene, whose legitimacy has been cemented for awhile now. All four are The Perfect Bar in their own way, from the general atmosphere to the reclaimed materials interiors to the Fernet Branca on tap (I know, right?). It’s easy to see why their spots have spawned a new generation of imitators, which, after all, is the highest form of flattery.
When Williamsburg’s Aska opened in late 2012, it quickly garnered the sort of attention that other restaurants spend years trying to attain: solid reviews in major publications, a much-talked about menu item (that would be the pig blood chip), write-ups by every magazine and food blog worth its salt (including ours), a place on Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants In America list. And the man behind the buzz was Fredrik Berselius, who brought a Nordic methodology to his kitchen and restaurant (think hyper-local and hyper-seasonal fare and ultra-precise plating combined with a genuine atmospheric warmth, epitomized in the little bag of Swedish cookies diners got to take home). All of which is why the loss of Aska this past spring was so shocking, but also speaks to why we’re so excited to see what Berselius will be opening next. If it’s even half as noteworthy as Aska (and we’re betting it’ll be more like double), we’ll be first in line to check it out.
Founder and CEO of Mouth
A digital technology expert, designer and artist best-known for co-founding Razorfish, this internet entrepreneur’s most recent invention is Mouth; a digital marketplace for food products from independent makers nationwide. The Brooklyn-based site also gives the story of each product and the maker behind it, such as Brooklyn Brine and their Hop Pickles, Ruby Bay seafood and their Teriyaki King Salmon Jerky, and the Rosemary Chocolate Peanut Butter from Better Off Spread.
Tom Kearney and Matt Amberg
Farm on Adderley and Nine Chains
Ditmas Park might be best known for its stately Victorian houses, but it also has a thriving food scene, at the forefront of which are Tom Kearney and Matt Amberg. Co-founders of the brand-new Nine Chains bakery on Church Avenue, Kearney and Amberg are also behind well-loved Cortelyou Road locavore staple The Farm on Adderley, which they opened in 2006. With boundary-pushing takes on local and national classics, all made with locally-sourced ingredients, Kearney and Amberg are leaving their mark on central Brooklyn in a big way.
al di la
If you’re in the mood for unctuous Italian cuisine in Brooklyn, odds are that you’ll be pointed towards al di la, a trattoria in Park Slope that has served Northern Italian fare since 1998. Chef Anna Klinger and her husband Emiliano Coppa run the Brooklyn mainstay, which has also become a neighborhood staple. “Last meal would be my mothers melted zucchini gratin, roast chicken with sausage stuffing and apricot dacquoise cake,” Klinger told us. “If the meal had to be in Brooklyn it would be my friend Micki’s Mutter paneer (an Indian dish of fresh peas and homemade cheese) followed by a double gianduja cone from Albero dei gelati.” Yum.
Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler
Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg, and Berg’n
Jonathan Butler, founder of Brownstoner, and Eric Demby have been running the show at Brooklyn Flea for more than six years now, and their food-centric spin-off from the Flea, Smorgasburg, has been running for the past three. In that time, it’s inspired its own brand of down-home Brooklyn foodie-ism, featuring artisanal everything from some of the borough’s most out-of-the-box pop-up culinary creatives. Also notable is the huge number of Smorgasburg vendors who have parlayed their success at the food festival into everything from brick-and-mortar stores to spots on Whole Foods shelves. And now, with the recently opened Berg’n, Demby and Butler have brought their brand—and ramen burgers—to yet another Brooklyn location.
Melissa and Emily Elsen
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Can a pie be revolutionary? This might seem a silly question until you consider the Salty Honey pie at Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanus. This cult-status favorite is only one among many highly coveted pies at this Gowanus bakery started by sister Melissa and Emily Elsen back in 2010. Each of their rotating selection of pies is delicious, complete with a perfect crust and beautifully balanced filling. These sisters are responsible for one dessert trend that clearly isn’t going anywhere.
Known as “The Foodist” to Bon Appetit readers, Andrew Knowlton has a lot of opinions on food and drinks. And while we know that opinions aren’t really about being right or wrong, well, we feel pretty confident in asserting that the vast majority of Knowlton’s are perfectly spot-on. Every month in Bon Appetit, Knowlton rounds up his current favorite things and from brunost, the Norwegian brown cheese he loves, to his recent ode to the bialy, Knowlton knows what’s up… and he’s eager to let you in on it too. Follow him on Twitter, read his work at BA, and go check out the time he did New York magazine’s Grub Street Diet. The man spends a lot of time at Prime Meats, as all trustworthy Brooklyn food-lovers do.
Bianca Piccillo and Mark Usewicz
Founders of Mermaid’s Garden
Part Prospect Heights market, selling impeccably fresh, fully traceable sustainable seafood, part CSF, a community supported fishery connecting patrons to small, local fish suppliers, and part wholesale and consulting operation, Mermaid’s Garden was founded a year ago by marine biologist Bianca Piccillo, who also spent time at restaurants such as al di la, and chef Mark Usewicz, a vet of Park Slope’s Palo Santo.
Captain of The Water Table
How to stay ahead of constantly inflating Brooklyn real estate prices? How about chartering a boat, and taking your act to the East River? Drawing on both her 100GT Master Captain’s license and 16 years of hospitality experience, Kelli Farwell elected to transform an old Navy Yard Patrol Boat into a floating restaurant, where $75 tickets buy a star-lit, 2.5 hour cruise on the NY harbor, along with a three-course menu of lobster rolls and ice cream floats.
Jim O’Shea and Efrain Hernandez
Co-Founders of ReConnect Cafe
It’s become commonplace to see cutesy coffee shops and chic wine bars dotting the once gritty streets of Bed Stuy. But Father Jim O’Shea and lifelong resident Efrain Hernandez aim to give a whole lot more back to the neighborhood than free WiFi and soymilk lattes. An initiative of the non-profit Vernon Ave. Project, ReConnect Café offers assistance to at-risk young men seeking to change the course of their lives, providing employment that leads to renewed engagement of education and training, and a commitment to community leadership and service.
Founder of Short Stack cookbooks
Lord knows, big publishing houses continue to acquire and churn out new cookbooks each year, at a fast and furious pace. But the mission at the decidedly indie Short Stack is to put authors first — paying them for each and every copy of collectible, single-subject, small-format booklets that they print…not just a tiny royalty of whatever they eventually sell. Ingeniously conceptualized by Nick Fauchald, a Brooklyn-based writer and former editor at Food & Wine, Tasting Table, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, the Kickstarter funded company has released nine titles (including “Eggs” by Ian Knauer, “Strawberries” by Susan Spungen and “Broccoli” by Tyler Kord) to date.
Founder of Jack from Brooklyn Sorel
Brooklyn has more than its share of borough-distilled libations, such as Cacao Prieto rum, Kings County whiskey, and Greenhook Ginsmiths gin. But the prized, locally sourced bottle on our home bar nowadays is the spicy, musky, ruby-red Sorel: a hibiscus-based liqueur inspired by the traditional Caribbean drink. The brainchild of Brooklyn native and former publishing exec Jackie Summers, the two-year-old Red Hook business almost didn’t make it after Hurricane Sandy submerged it under five feet of seawater. But Summers rebounded from the storm, as surely as he bounced back from the cancer scare that eventually sparked his surprising change of career, and can currently be found pumping out 1000 liters of his artisanal, West Indian-styled tipple each week.
Erica Shea and Stephen Valand
Co-Founders of Brooklyn Brew Shop
Ingeniously drawing on two of Brooklyn’s most pervasive passions (the DIY movement and BEER), these two industrious twenty-somethings birthed their wildly successful company out of Brooklyn Flea in the summer of 2009. Their stylish, easy-to-use brewing kits are especially designed to suit even the tiniest of urban kitchens, and run the gamut from citrusy Grapefruit Honey Ale to malty Chocolate Maple Porter. They’ve even begun a series of awesome collaborations, starting with a home-brew version of Evil Twin Bikini Beer, from infamous Torst owner Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø.
Craig Samuels and Ben Grossman
Peaches, The Hothouse, The Smoke Joint, Marietta’s, Little Brother BBQ
Since 2006, Samuels and Grossman have been bringing excellent barbecue and solid Southern fare to Brooklyn. The Smoke Joint was their first venture together, and it quickly drew raves and crowds to its Fort Greene locale, and they followed it up with Peaches and later The Hothouse, which easily has the best hot chicken this side of Nashville. Until recently, there were few places in Brooklyn that offered the type of good Southern cooking like this, but we can thank Samuels and Grossman for setting the trend way back when.
Liza de Guia
Founder of Food Curated
This tiny but plucky filmmaker forged a career making intimate documentaries of under-the-radar (at least, at that time) food artisans, frequently shining a spotlight on worthy Brooklyn businesses, such as Sky Ice, SCRATCHBread, Brooklyn Cured, Salvatore Bklyn, El Olomega, Cookie Fairy Sweets, and My Friend’s Mustard.
Executive Director of Red Hook Food Vendors
Long before the food truck craze became, well, a craze, outdoor vendors (many of them in trucks!) lined the soccer fields of Red Hook on the weekend in order to sell their delicious wares. How long before? 40 years! As Cesar Fuentes tells us, the original Red Hook food vendors date back to the early 70s and the vendors have collectively weathered the changing demographic of their chosen neighborhood. Easily one of the most reliable places to find great, cheap food, the Red Hook vendors also stand as an example of the Brooklyn that once was, and how it’s possible to maintain character and integrity by banding together and collectively making sure good things happen to the group as a whole. And if a byproduct of the vendors’ strength in numbers happens to be that we still get to enjoy exemplary pupusas on beautiful summer days? Well, so be it. Bring it on.
Chef/owner of Okonomi
One of the breakout stars of Smorgasburg, this former fish supplier introduced Brooklyn to a new style of ramen (brothless mazemen), at his consistently mobbed stand, Yuji. He was eventually asked to kick off a residency at both the Bowery and Gowanus branches of Whole Foods, and parlayed his success into a Williamsburg restaurant, Okonomi, serving traditional, Ichiju Sansai set meals.
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