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Q & A with Cabrito's David Schuttenberg

Throughout the New York City Food & Wine Festival this weekend, Eater welcomes bloggers, journalists and food world stars to our lounge at the Standard Hotel. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge. Right now: Cabrito's resident Goat Guru, chef David Schuttenberg.

2009_10_davecabrito.jpgCabrito is a part of today's Grand Tasting, correct? Yup, we didn't do it yesterday, we're just here for today—I just got done with the morning one. I have an expectation for these things, and I think that with the early Sunday ones, everyone's been out partying the night before, so I tried to prepare the hangover dish—I thought that something spicy at noon on a Sunday would be good.

What did you serve? Posole. I grew up in southern Arizona, my mother in law is Mexican, from Chihuahua—she taught me how to make a posole. She loves to cook with lean meat, she loves to cook the way her mother did it. The thing about Mexican cooking, is that's the way my mom did it too—she learned from her mother. I think it's okay to break away from that tradition when you can incorporate techniques from other foods. I generally work with pork shoulder—not loin, the recipe she taught me—and I kind of adjusted it from there.

So, what's going on at Cabrito right now? The restaurant's good. We're waiting to change over a lot of our summer dishes from the fall—we're just getting ready. I'm working on a few new dishes. We're doing an oxtail stew, we do vegetables, we're going to try and do like a roasted Brussels sprouts dish. I love southern American cooking, so we're doing a braised collared greens, with chicharrones. And we're starting to think about winter dishes—I think I'm a better winter chef. I'm intimidated by the market in the spring.

You're sister restaurants with Fatty Crab. Do you get involved with what's going on there at all? We're like some big crazy family. After culinary school, I went to Craft, and learned just a ton of stuff there, and moved back to Colorado with my wife, and thought we might have a family, a kid, a house.... When we got there, after three weeks, we sold the house, broke down the picket fence, moved back and then Fatty Crab opened. [Fatty Crab's] Zak [Pelaccio] wanted me to be the sous chef there. He wanted to do something focused on production—it was at Fatty Crab, doing street food, doing home cooking, doing that sort of relaxed casual food and high end dining at the same time.

Cabrito is known for, among other things, doing amazing things with goat. How did that idea come about? When we were talking about the concept, and menu items, we were hanging out one night, and half a bottle of scotch later, Zak said we're calling it Cabrito. Goat is a difficult animal to cook. I feel like it took a good six months to learn exactly how it needs to be done—it's one of those animals! You have a small window between under cooked and over cooked. When [NYT critic Frank] Bruni reviewed the restaurant, it was an inconsistent product, but him saying that there were inconsistencies really helped us, really made us look at how to do it right.

Has the downturn in the economy affected business at all? Yeah, I mean, in all complete honesty, we opened, there was a lot of press, a lot of hype, a lot of it had to do with what had been there before us. I worked with Josh [DeChellis], I felt terrible that he hadn't had success. I think it started, it was great, then I was absolutely blown away by the power of the Times. It was night and day, without talking numbers, it was night and day. Spring and summer went really well. I think based on the location and the fall, we're doing really well. Its good to feel healthy. This industry is going up and down, its good to feel some normalcy.
· NYCWFF 2009 Coverage [~ENY~]a