At Zocalo we are committed to discovering only the best for our menu. From the street markets of mexico to fine dining in New York City we are continually traveling the world to seek out inspiration. Behind every dish there is a story, and that story begins with our team. This month our head chef Ryan Rose went on a trip to to check out what is new on the food scene in one of the most influential cities in the country, New York City. We got a chance to sit down with him and talk a little bit about why he does what he does, and how this recent trip was so influential.
You went on a trip this past month! Where did you go and why did you choose to go there?
My wife and I went to New York for a week long eating tour. New York is a restaurant mecca. I had so many places I knew I wanted to visit and I was also hoping to catch Enrique Olvera’s (of Pujol in Mexico City) new place Cosme. Unfortunately he had yet to open his doors.
What was the your favorite place that you visited? Why?
I had two. Maialino and Grammercy Tavern- both concepts from Danny Meyer a huge restaurateur in NYC. More than anything it’s the feeling you get when you’re there. You feel welcomed. You feel taken care of. That’s a good feeling to have. Another cool deal was that we saw Mario Batali sitting at his restaurant Babbo. He was catering to Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and interesting enough (for being one of the country’s most famous chefs) he was the ONLY chef that was at his restaurant that night. I thought that was huge.
What is one thing that you learned on this trip that will directly affect your cooking/approach at Zocalo?
The floor is everything. When I eat out I am watching everything (my wife has had to come to terms with this). What I saw from the service staff, especially the sommelier at Maialino was that at dinner there is nothing more important than taking care of the people in their restaurant at that time. You saw it in their eyes. They took care of you because it was important to them and that importance is where their character is built. It’s not a job to them, it’s a lifestyle. Unfortunately, that is very rarely the case when dining out. In fact at times, places make you feel as if they’re doing you a favor. That’s the story I’m telling our staff.
Why do you frequently go on these food trips?
I will always be a student and to be at the top of my my game I have to know what’s going on. That’s the way Ernesto taught me. I’ll never forget being at a conference once with him in Oaxaca with other restaurateurs from all over the US. It was hilarious because there was a sort of bragging session going on amongst a group telling how great they were and where they were from. Yet Ernesto instead of chiming in on his accomplishments, was telling these guys that he had been to there places, even remembering the dishes he tried. Colorado, Chicago, other parts of California, it didn’t matter where they were from, Ernesto would continually answer, ” I’ve been to your place, you served homemade churros in a killer sauce.” or “Oh yeah you have an awesome front patio.” If we are going to get better, we’re not going to do it patting ourselves on the back thinking we know everything.
What was the best thing you ate on your trip?
Our second to last night we stopped in to 4 different restaurants. Stuffed already, I knew I had to save room for Barbuto’s chicken. I had heard about the chicken before and had to try it. Being an open kitchen, literally the only cook that was busy was the chicken guy. I’d guess that 7 out of 10 guests were eating that dish. But it was their fried potato side dish that was out of this world!! Im guessing they slow poached russet potatoes in butter just enough to cook through and scruff the outside up a bit. Then threw them in the fryer. The texture was amazing!! I think the chicken complimented the potato, not the other way around
Can we expect any new dishes in the works at Zocalo?
We just made some dessert changes which I’m happy with. The desserts we had in NYC that I liked were super simple but great, so I felt comfortable adding a rotating fruit filled pie to the menu that isn’t trying to be cool. It just tastes good.