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Mar 27, 2013 09:53 AM

Chef at the helm

I don't know if this has been discussed before here on Long Island, so I apologize if it has.
I have been a little flummoxed by the number of restaurants here on Long Island that claim to have a culinary schooled chef at the helm when the majority of menu offerings don’t take much ‘chef’ skill to prepare. Please, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it is a very difficult and demanding job to be a kitchen manager, and a line cook and any job in the back and front of the house, but the majority of places I’ve been recently on Long Island, both high and low end seem to serve apologies and lack those dishes that make a chef a chef. By apologies I mean, like many chefs claim, “you have to have the requisite steak, fried calamari, sliders, etc. on the menu and at the bottom of the menu, maybe one or two dishes you are able to squeeze in as a true chef.”
Sourcing high end ingredients is a good start, and usually an unnecessary one, and it usually ends there.
In my travels I occasionally encounter a place or two in an unassuming place that will wow me by the chef at the helm. It may not be a chowhound destination, but the chef is actually cooking back there. It may just well be that one dish at the bottom of the menu. And, well, for Long Island, I’ll gladly take it.
The braised short rib, steaks, burgers, anything off the grill or under the broiler, anything deep fried, tuna tartare, flatbreads, mussels, risottos, pan seared and roasted whatever, and salads etc. are for the other (skilled) cooks in the kitchen to prepare. And for me to glance over and avoid.
Perhaps anything other than a plain piece of protein with a side of whatever is what I’m looking for.
I’m looking for that dish that has to be made by the chef or it’s not on the menu.

What restaurants on Long Island do you find the chef at the helm actually doing his or her thing?

P.S. This isn’t about ethnic restaurants. So sushi and Asian in general don’t fit the above. :-)

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  1. So. By the lack or replies I will assume what many of us already know. That a restaurant owner, more often a restaurant group, here on Long Island, will hire a culinary school graduate and give them the title of 'chef'. The kitchen manager duties they perform will include making sure the menu is executed in a manner and style that was agreed upon and other business details outlined in the job description.
    In an upscale French kitchen, not the usual casual dining spots in France that most people eat in daily, but the destination restaurants 10 Michelin Star places, there is a titled chef at every station, by years of school or many years of apprenticeship. Not so in 99% of any other places world wide, let alone here on our beautiful island. Or most in Manhattan for that matter.
    I'm sure many of us have dined on very tasty food. Anyone can get good food anywhere. That's not what I'm looking for here on
    Maybe it's the chef owner places that have more than a grilled hanger steak with pomme frittes, or the Italian place that has more than the usual over-orchestrated Italian-American fare that I thought we were SO over by now.

    If the menu has the name of the chef on it. I expect more than what a graduated, albeit talented, dishwasher-come-cook can prepare. If they went to school to learn the trade, maybe more than kitchen management and perhaps a dish from the deft hands of a chef should appear on the menu. More often than not this isn't the case I find.

    Otherwise we will continue to seek out all those places that serve chowhound worthy food here on Long Island. No matter who is in the kitchen, just as long as we continue our quest for what we are looking for, ...or missing.....