After nearly four years as chef de cuisine at Roberta's — the pizzeria, bakery, charcuterie den, sandwich shop, and outdoor tiki bar that for so many embodies the DIY-everything ethos of modern Brooklyn — Nick Barker has left the restaurant to pursue other opportunities.
"It was time for a change," Barker told Eater via phone. He'll spend the summer working for a private client in the Hamptons this summer before getting married in September. "I've been surfing a lot more," he said, adding that he'd "love to stay on the East Coast."
Barker is succeeded by David Selman, who previously worked at Brushtroke and Corton, and who staged at Pujol in Mexico, Malabar in Lima, and Geranium in Copenhagen. He joined Roberta's about a year ago.
Carlo Mirarchi, chef and co-owner at Roberta's and the tasting menu-only Blanca, spoke highly of Barker's tenure in a phone interview on Thursday, noting that he "brought a type of West Coast sensibility, which was something I really wanted to do with the menu. It also gave me the ability to focus more of my time on Blanca."
Barker, who grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, came to Roberta's following stints at David Kinch's now three-Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, and Central Kitchen in San Francisco. "I hope that I got people thinking a little bit more about where food comes from, focusing on a lighter way of eating, and bringing what I learned in California to a kitchen in Brooklyn, with a focus on vegetables." But that emphasis wasn't necessarily vegetarian. During Barker's tenure at Roberta's, the kitchen sent out umami-rich dishes like turnips with aged beef fat and carrots with funky XO sauce.
Perhaps Barker's signature creation was his roasted pumpkin with crumbled blood sausage, a classic West Coast preparation of vegetables seasoned with meat or seafood (rather than the other way around). "It was very delicious but also very interesting and humble," Mirarchi said. Indeed, this critic called the pumpkin as "soft as souffle" and cited the dish in his three star review of the restaurant.
Barker's departure was "seamless and professional," Mirarchi said, adding that the chef left Selman in a "great place" for the transition.