Hmm, when you have the chance to chat with a man as complex Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, where do you start? He fought his way to the top against a slew of other chefs to gain his spot on Iron Chef America! You see him as a judge on Chopped and he brightens your Saturday morning on The Kitchen with Sunny Anderson, Katie Lee, Jeff Mauro, and Marcela Valladolid. Chances are, too, that he’s in your kitchen . . . well, in cookbook form at least with My Perfect Pantry and Town | Country. But maybe most interesting to you, our Omnomivores, is his Greenwich roots: yes, The Avenue was his old stomping grounds and soon he’ll be stomping it more as he opens up his new restaurant, The National Greenwich. He goes into depth about that, not following restaurant trends, how he handles critiquing others, his appearances at the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival, Kathie Lee, becoming the new President of the Food Council for City Harvest, and what’s in the works next for him in our interview, so go ahead and get your reading on below . . .
Being in the restaurant business and in the forefront of the culinary scene, you’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of changes, developments, and trends. Can you share your thoughts on a positive trend in dining that you’re noticing lately? How about one you’re not so thrilled about?
Geoffrey: I usually don’t prescribe to trends . . . I always try to communicate my style of food and service as genuinely as I can and not as a response to what happens to be popular at that time. One recent positive, however, is the focus on fast casual dining and simpler menu and restaurant concepts.
One of the toughest parts about writing our blog is when we’re writing a review and need to share things that we didn’t like or weren’t well executed. You have to provide pretty critical feedback on Chopped, your other shows, and at your restaurants probably on a daily basis, though. How have you found the best way to do that is?
Geoffrey: I always focus on the positive first by pointing out the successes, then I give the critique. This way the contestant or employee does not “shut down” and is able to take in both positive and negative criticisms, allowing them to improve through thoughtful suggestions.
We know that last year you hosted the Most Innovative Chefs Gala, had a book signing, held a chef demo, and had an interview at the Greenwich Wine + Food Festival, but what exciting things do you have planned for this year?
Geoffrey: More of the same!! I am thrilled to co-host Kathie Lee Gifford’s kick off dinner this Thursday, and then I have a demo, a book signing, and burger judging – just to name a few! I am really looking forward to my demo to introduce my new restaurant The National Greenwich, opening in just a few weeks, to the Greenwich community. I’ll be making a few things from the menu…
How has it been to work with the dynamic Kathie Lee on the J House kickoff dinner?
Geoffrey: She is the consummate host and is such a fun person to be around . . . AND she makes wonderful wine which we will be featuring in my restaurant too.
What kind of things do the both of you have planned?
Geoffrey: The best things we can do as a hosts is to show our guests a good time! It’s such a fantastic event and we hope to raise a lot of money for the charity.
And, what we really want to know is, have you gotten a little tipsy with her yet? Is she as fun as she seems on her show?
Geoffrey: I never kiss and tell…
So, you had to know this was coming because we’re DYING to know: do you have anything to share about your new restaurant that is coming to CT like name, location, inspiration, and philosophy?
Geoffrey: I am so excited for this opening! It’s called The National Greenwich and it will be located just two blocks up from the train at 376 Greenwich Avenue. I used to live in town, and really wanted to open a neighborhood restaurant that feels extremely comfortable, with delicious food and cocktails. A real place that you can go a few times a week – lunch, dinner, brunch…. a place to hang out, meet friends, feed your family….that special kind of place that we all love to go to. We will be serving items from our wood burning grill, too!
I have been up to the site daily monitoring the construction and I can tell you for sure…we are getting very close!
Is there anything else that you have in the works that you’d like to share with our readers?
Geoffrey: This year I have been honored to be the President of the Food Council for City Harvest – an organization bringing healthy food to those in need. Right now I’m also laser-focused on The National Greenwich opening, but I’m also writing my third cookbook, and currently working on shows for the Food Network, including Chopped, The Kitchen and a new one called Top 5.
Keep an eye out for updates and come see me at the restaurant!