Georgette Farkas opened Rôtisserie Georgette in NYC in 2013. She is a native New Yorker with entrepreneurial spirit in her DNA, as her family is known for having created Alexander’s department stores.
Having enjoyed an international career with over 20 years in the field, Georgette Farkas is a restaurateur who learned her trade working operational positions at some of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants. She’s worked with some of the world’s great Chefs including Roger Vergé at Moulinde Mougins, Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monte Carlo and with Daniel Boulud while he was executive Chef at New York’s Hotel Plaza Athenée.
After studying European history at Harvard, Georgette went on to attend the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne followed by training at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, Hotel Richmond in Geneva, and Hotel de Crillon in Paris. She bartended at Blake’s Hotel in London and with nightclub impresario Régine at the Hotel Marignan in Paris. Her first exposure to culinary communications came as assistant producer for Chef Pierre Franey’s 26-episode PBS “Cooking in France” television series.
During her seventeen year tenure as the Public Relations and Marketing Director for Daniel Boulud, she was one of a small group of executives who helped to extend Boulud’s Dinex Group to 14 venues.
Georgette Farkas and the restaurant have been recognized with a “Restaurateur of the Year” (2015) award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” (2015) and a Women Chefs & Restaurateurs “Golden Fork Award” (2014) for excellent service.
Was there someone that had an impact on you that led to your interest in cooking and then getting into the business?
My interest in cooking began with my mother. She was and still is a hard-working businesswoman. So while she wasn’t preparing our nightly family dinners, she did love to cook and made everything with generosity and soulfulness. She also presented food with beauty and style. Her cooking was like a gift to her guests. I still make her pot roast and potato pancakes to this day. I was also tremendously influenced by the time my family spent living in the South of France when I was a child. Those years formed my taste for light, healthy Mediterranean cooking, often rustic and with the occasional seasonal splurge on porcini in the fall, black Perigord truffles in winter or white asparagus in the spring.
Can you talk about some of the mentors along the way that had an impact on your career?
I have had the privilege of working for some truly accomplished pros. Daniel Boulud has been my most significant mentor. I don’t know anyone with as much creativity, energy and generosity. He instilled me with the idea that everything we do, we can always do a little better. That hors d’oeuvre may be delicious, but does it have contrast in flavor and texture? Can it be more beautifully presented? I will also never cease to marvel at the extra effort he makes to care for people. The gesture may be as simple as delivering a meal to a guest in the hospital. The heartfelt effort is invaluable.
What brought you to your current position at Rotisserie Georgette?
From my teenage years onward, I worked in many kitchens, forging my path toward a restaurant career. After college, I set off for hotel school in Lausanne with the intent of building a career in restaurants, with the idea that I would create my own business someday. Yet I am not naturally courageous or a risk-taker, so I spent over two decades working for other people before I arrived at the point where I knew I would never forgive myself if I did not face the challenge of going out on my own. After years of working in Europe and in New York, I had painted a clear idea for myself of the restaurant I would create, a combination of luxury, simplicity, seasonality, comfort and tradition.
You hand-picked your staff, tell us about your key members who make Rotisserie Georgette possible.
I could never have created the restaurant without Katina Pappas Dermatas, one of the smartest women I know. We built the business together from the ground up, with the idea that she would remain for about a year after opening to establish a strong foundation for our systems. Right now we have the strongest team since our opening in November 2013. Catalin Pirvu has been with us for over four years, and I could have no finer teammate in terms of the strong leadership he provides to the front of house team. He is deeply respected by our staff, and that says everything. Our Maitre d’ Melissa Fields takes caring for our guests very personally, and everyone who walks in the door feels her innate spirit of welcome. Mickael Noterman joined us only a few months ago as a Sous Chef. After observing his talent and dedication and the sincerity of his cooking, I promoted him to lead the kitchen. We have developed a strong collaborative stance for creating new dishes together. The new whole roasted artichoke heart with roasted tomatoes, tapenade and arugula is a perfect example. Poached shrimp with a fennel-orange salad and avocado mousse is another great addition bringing us into the fall season. Pastry Chef Maira Maldonado is a sheer delight in terms of talent, professionalism and motivation and her support of the whole team. For every new idea we explore together, she has the drive to test and create until we hit a high note. Come try her maple créme brûlée with crisp maple tuile.
Your cuisine is authentic classic French, what’s on your wine and champagne list, and cocktail menu?
My wine list parallels my menu in that it’s quite classily French. I offer value on the list. This often comes by way of the second or third wines of the great Bordeaux châteaux. I recently added Margaux de Brane from Brane-Cantenac; Margaux of Château Margaux and Connétable from Château Talbot.
On the cocktail front, I’m always inspired by the creations we add at the start of each season. This fall look for our new “Forbidden Fruit” made with Normandy apple cider, apple brandy and Rockey’s punch, garnished with a crisp apple chip. We’re also bringing back our “Orange Fumée cocktail made with Grand Marnier, mezcal and freshly squeezed orange juice. I believe there’s no better way to begin the evening than with a glass of Champagne. Frèrejean Frères is my latest discovery, and I have a glass waiting for you.
How would you describe the needs of your customers?
I’ve developed a strong following of Upper East Side regulars. They know what they want, and I understand their tastes in terms of classics, beautifully presented, but with a light, healthy approach that brings traditional cooking up to date. For every dish, I look to eliminate ingredients that might weigh it down without adding flavor. This is especially true with vegetarian specialties, such as the farroto that I change it every season. Right now we’re pairing it with yellow and green zucchini, pesto and a crisp zucchini flower beignet. As we head into the fall, we’ll make it with roasted butternut squash, Parmesan and pumpkin seeds. The majority of my menu is gluten-free. Frankly, it was not purposeful; but simply reflects my uncluttered style of cooking. Over the years, I’ve seen how much this appeals to our guests, so I’ve simply continued in this direction. Yet as essential as the quality of our cooking is, nurturing our guests one at a time is every bit as important.
How have those needs evolved and what have you done to respond to those needs?
As more and more restaurants belong to expanding restaurant groups, I find our guests appreciate the small, independently run establishment with a personal touch and the stamp of an ever-present owner with a caring staff. Greeting by a caring familiar face is valued. The highest standard in the quality of our ingredients is also vital, not only for the quality of our cooking, but just as much for reinforcing our guests trust in what we are serving. They know our chickens come from small family farms in Pennsylvania, our ducks from Long Island and our guinea hens from Upstate New York.
Charitable organizations are important to you, tell us about your work with Citymeals-on-Wheels and Literacy Partners.
I credit Daniel Boulud for setting me on the path to working with Citymeals. Feeding so many privileged people in my restaurant makes it rewarding to serve less prominent and sometimes forgotten neighbors. Citymeals delivers food to New York’s homebound elderly right here in our community. I highly recommend going on a meal delivery to appreciate the value of what they do.
Through my series of Literary Lunches, I discovered their mission of strengthening families through a two-generation approach to education. With their free classes, low-income parents develop the literacy and language skills they need to thrive out on their own. I am all too aware of the privilege I have had in terms of my own education. I owe it to our community to support access to reading and writing for families in whose lives it will make a meaningful difference.
To learn more about Georgette Farkas, visit her restaurant website