Chef Jesse Schenker has amassed an impressive culinary history on his way to becoming executive chef and owner of Recette, the urban, contemporary American restaurant which opened in New York’s Greenwich Village in January of 2010. Just months after its opening, Recette received glowing two-star reviews from both the New York Times and New York Magazine. Sam Sifton also called Recette one of his favorite newcomers of 2010, particularly noting Schenker’s Salt Cod Fritters as “one of the 15 best things” he ate in NYC in 2010.
What inspired you to become a chef? Where did you study culinary arts?
At a very young age I had a strong desire to experiment in the kitchen. It was very instinctual. I’ve always enjoyed eating and researching food. I went to a vocational school for culinary arts while in high school, but got the majority of my training working in professional kitchens.
Have any mentors? What have you learned from them?
I have many mentors. Every kitchen that I spent time in, I absorbed everything I possibly could. I learned authentic Italian techniques and flavor profiles while working for Rino Balzano. I learned discipline, consistency and technique while working for Gordon Ramsay in NYC. I am constantly learning every day from my surroundings.
What advice would you give to the next generation of chefs?
I think it is very important as a young cook to start from the ground up and learn the basics and spend a solid year in a few different kitchens absorbing different styles to eventually create your own. No matter how hard things get in your early stages, always keep your eye on the prize and push through 100%
What’s the thought process in developing your restaurant’s menu? How often does it change?
I developed the menu and the format in a style that I like to eat while dining out. I like trying multiple things and I wanted people to have the option of having multiple courses without a stuffy environment. The menu changes seasonally.
Do you get any or all of your ingredients from local farmer markets? Is there a farm to table approach used?
We like to use as much seasonal produce as possible. So during the spring and summer months, when there’s more available at the local green markets, we definitely take advantage of that. We try our best to obtain the freshest product possible year round.
How to did you land in New York and become owner of Recette at such an early age?
When I was 25 I knew it was time to come to NY to take it to the next level. I had always dreamed of having a restaurant in Greenwich Village. After working for Gordon Ramsay for a long while I buckled down and put together a business plan and basically busted my ass to bring the dream to fruition.
What’s “Mondays with Jesse” all about?
Mondays with Jesse was created for two reasons. First was to break up the monotony for the staff, keeping things fresh and interesting. Second was to give myself a chance to express more high end, creative fare that I wouldn’t normally be able to execute at Recette. MWJ is basically a completely different restaurant within a restaurant one day a month.
On the equipment side, do you have a favorite piece of equipment that you like to use and make’s your job easier?
The Vita Prep. I use the blender 5 – 10 times a day to make purees, soups etc.
Where will we find you in five years?
I prefer to stay in the moment and continue to improve things here at Recette. I live life a day at a time.