In one of the most competitive culinary environments in the world, there is a little 25 seat restaurant called Joe & Misses Doe. Joe and Jill Dobias have made a name for themselves in their cozy spot on East 1st Street, cooking “aggressive American” bites for the past nine years.
Total Food Service had the pleasure of chatting with the couple to learn their culinary love story and see what the future holds for Joe & Misses Doe.
Let’s hear the love story, how did you two meet?
Joe and I met over 10 years ago in a restaurant (now closed) on Sullivan Street in the West Village. It was Joe’s last day as the Chef and my first day as a server. Our only interaction that day was Joe telling me to ‘get my head outta my ass’ because I didn’t run food from the kitchen fast enough. It was true love. Joe lived upstairs from the restaurant and although he was leaving the restaurant, I still saw him every day throwing out his pizza boxes with his trash. One day he came in and gave me his phone number, and we have been together ever since.
How did you both first get into the culinary world and what was your inspiration?
Joe: My biggest influence in cooking is my mother. She went back to work when I was young, so I had to take over cooking for my family. Watching PBS (Julia Child & Galloping Gourmet, Jeff Smith) made me think about food and cooking differently.
Jill: All of my inspiration comes from my husband. I saw that food could be a career after I retired from my professional dance career. And I started to love working in hospitality.
Where were you before Joe & Misses Doe?
Jill: Joe worked for many known Chefs & restaurateurs including Ming Tsai (at Blue Ginger in Boston), Peter Hoffman at Savoy, and Jeffrey Chodorow at Borough Food & Drink.
Joe: Jill started taking better jobs in the restaurant business when she realized that it was my passion and that one day I wanted to have my own place. She has worked for Restaurant Associates and was the manager of Crispo restaurant (Frank Crispo, Chef/Owner) on 14th Street before opening our restaurant in 2008.
How did Joe & Misses Doe come together?
We opened the restaurant in 2008 after finding a listing on craigslist. We always say that this space picked us… we didn’t pick it. It was the only thing really in our price range! We opened on credit cards & lines of credit right before the crash, so it wasn’t really perfect timing. The restaurant was called Joe Doe until we did a small renovation in 2013, and got married, and changed the restaurant name to Joe & Misses Doe.
How did you go about the menu creation?
Joe: When we first opened our restaurant I put whatever the f*ck I wanted to cook on the menu. Now, I’m older, wiser, and I know the difference between pleasing yourself and making money in the business.
Jill: When we opened, we were wild. It took us a while to focus on our strengths, while maintaining our style and integrity, AND make money to run our business.
How do you come up with some of your menu ideas?
Joe: Most of our ideas are ingredient driven. I start with the centerpiece of the dish and I build around it.
We would love to hear a little bit about the decor of Joe & Misses Doe?
Our style has always been casual, quirky, and warm environment…..with sophisticated food. NOT PRETENTIOUS. Just food that has finesse, tastes good, and is creative, and you know a Chef is in the kitchen. We have clocks all over all set to 4:20, Jill’s Mom’s prom photos for 50 years ago. We like to think of it like a mix of old world and new, or high brow/low brow… our mojo.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Joe: My style is a nice mix of old world techniques in a modern application. I tend towards Jewish flavors (pickling, roasting meats).
Jill: The most interesting thing about Joe’s cooking is that it seems familiar, but the flavors are unexpected. He will serve a hot protein with a cold sauce. Joe uses lots of vinegar, spice, and acid. A play on textures & temperatures! It’s both creative and delicious.
How did your time on Chopped influence you as a chef?
Joe: CHOPPED made me see the real difference between TV cooking and real world cooking. It also taught me a great bit of humility. You could be an amazing chef, and still do poorly on a cooking competition show.
Working on anything new that you can share with our readers?
Jill: In addition to our restaurant, we also run a rapidly expanding Event Production company called JAMD, with corporate clients including DirecTV, Stance, and Lands End. We started this company in 2011 and hope to have our own events venue by 2018.
Joe: We are also looking to open another restaurant down the road outside of NYC.
To learn more about Joe and Misses Doe, visit their website.