+ A

Chef brings flavors of the Big Apple to Seoul: Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony is making dinner and breakfast at JW Marriott this weekend

In the next five years, we will see attention shift to Korea. It is one of the reasons why I’m here.
Oct 05,2019
Chef Michael Anthony of New York’s Gramercy Tavern poses for a photo before he kicks off a two-day gala dinner at JW Marriott Seoul in Seocho District, southern Seoul, on Friday. [JW MARRIOTT SEOUL]
New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern’s chef Michael Anthony is serving dishes, top and middle, that he created to reflect American contemporary cuisine using Korean ingredients, such as Korean beef, at The Margaux Grill, above, at JW Marriott Seoul. [JW MARRIOTT SEOUL]
A rare opportunity to follow up a gala dinner made by chef Michael Anthony of New York’s popular Gramercy Tavern with an All-American breakfast comes to Seoul this weekend. The famed chef will offer more than a slice of New York on diners’ plates at the JW Marriott Seoul in southern Seoul, from dinner on Saturday night until Sunday morning.

The chef, on his second visit to Korea, is here to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the hotel’s reopening last year. Unlike other gala dinners that last for a few hours in the evening, the chef and the hotel decided to offer an event that comes with an overnight stay.

Dubbed “Gramercy Tavern at JW,” the package includes two tickets to the gala dinner, the book “V is for Vegetables” by chef Anthony as well as the Gramercy Tavern Healthy American Breakfast for two. You can choose to have either a hearty All-American breakfast with pancakes and bacon, or something more refreshing with yogurt and fruit. Both options are centered around the theme of apples.

“The idea behind the room package is to speak to a product that’s famous in our region, as we grow apples better than anyone,” said chef Anthony during his visit to Seoul this week, adding that he is bringing flavors from New York to diners here.

“We want to provide flavors and memories that you want to tell someone else about and that you are reminded of the next day.”

For dinner, he is also bringing a taste of New York, although adapted a bit due to supplies of certain ingredients. The refreshing tomato soup he makes with his team in New York has become a smoked tomato soup for Seoul. He hopes to tell the story of New York intertwined with Seoul because he thinks celebrating the connection between the two restaurants goes a little deeper than improvising a menu using ingredients that he finds in a new city within a few days.

“It is always hard when you take the show on the road and understand how it’s going to feel here,” said the chef, sharing his plan to present the New York cuisine in his own way in Korea. The chef met with the Korea JoongAng Daily to talk about the dishes that will be offered at the hotel and what ideas and inspirations he gets from the Korean food scene in New York.

The following are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. Tell us more about the food you are doing for the gala dinner, especially the tomato soup.

. It was a bit of a risk because we have a wide variety of fascinating tomatoes that are grown in our region in the United States. My understanding is there isn’t quite a wide variety of tomatoes in this region in Korea. But I did it anyway because I wanted to tell the story of New York more than I wanted to come here and find out exactly what expresses October here.

I add shrimp stock to the tomato soup and put in shrimp as a garnish. At home, we don’t usually do that. It is now not so much about showing the purity of the tomatoes but more about showing how seafood resonate swell with the dish. It will hit home. The use of shells will build more flavors and some gochugaru (hot pepper flakes) will give another depth of flavors. Besides, we will cook over wood, just like we do at Gramercy Tavern, so it will have a smoky quality.

What food do you make at Gramercy Tavern?

I’ve noticed the meals that are most deeply anchored to my memories are all kind of firmly attached to a specific place and time. I’ve always found that it’s a luxury or an opportunity to be a chef in New York in this particular moment, mostly because the American restaurant industry is now out of its infancy.

I like the fact that sometimes in the kitchen, it’s best to have short memory. New York has a short memory. We reinvent ourselves every few years. We are not bounded by years and years of history. And only the guiding principle we have as a group of chefs is to try to cook something exciting that remains recognizable, meaning that we try to create a flavor memory you can’t tell someone else about, something that doesn’t disappear. Contemporary American, which we do at the restaurant, is wide open.

What are the things you want to delve into while in Seoul?

I want to know how to dry and age seaweed. We are harvesting sugar kelp and I want to learn how Koreans do things here. I [saw] a lot of samples at the market. I did go to the Noryangjin Fish Market with other chefs, and got to see that there are so many different types of shellfish, such as shrimp, and got to see shad, butterfish and a lot more seafood. We did have the blue crab soup, too. I wanted to study more of the basic fermentation, as I saw a lot of squid and octopus covered in gochujang (hot pepper paste). I also want to learn about a variety of peppers that are famous and how they are processed.

How’s the Korean food scene in New York?

There is a wide variety of introductions I feel, as a outsider who doesn’t have a long-standing, deep connection to Korean food yet. Yet every 10 years, we see the international attention of chefs fall on a new culture. We saw this in the early 1990s when so many chefs flocked to France, then shifted to Spain, then subsequently to Italy and then to Japan.

In the next five years, we will see international attention shift to Korea. It is one of the reasons why I’m here. Korean food’s accessibility, immediacy and depth of flavors with just a few steps of preparation, as well as the use of jang are all fascinating. I have an admiration for Jung-hyun Park of Atoboy and Hooni Kim of Danji and Hanjan, and other chefs because they are following their voices to attract New York diners’ attention.

How many so-called Korean “graduates” of Gramercy Tavern are there?

There are now about 30 working in Korea. We are doing a reunion on Sunday.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

The gala dinner between Gramercy Tavern and The Margaux Grill at the JW Marriott Seoul in Seocho District, southern Seoul, starts with a reception at 6 p.m., featuring a book signing event with chef Michael Anthony, followed by dinner starting at 7 p.m. The dinner is 370,000 won ($309) per person, including tax and service charges, and a prior reservation is required. The overnight packaged, “Gramercy Tavern at JW” is only available tonight and costs 1.11 million won, including tax and service charges.