Andrew Tarlow — the restaurateur largely responsible for helping build the current Brooklyn local restaurant ethos and stripped-down, exposed brick aesthetic that has spread across the world — has had a major shift in his dining empire, with new chefs taking over the kitchens at all of his restaurants (Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, Roman’s, Achilles Heel) in the last year. Plus, Caroline Fidanza, who worked as Diner’s opening chef for 10 years before moving on to open cult favorite but now-closed sandwich shop Saltie, has rejoined the group as culinary director.
At Achilles Heel, Tarlow’s Greenpoint bar, Desiree Tuttle is now in charge after working as Reynard’s pastry sous chef, and Breslin alum Christina Lecki leads Reynard in Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel. Most recently, Patch Troffer took over Marlow & Sons’s New American kitchen in South Williamsburg, joining from San Francisco restaurants Camino and Bar Tartine. Fort Greene Italian restaurant Roman’s has promoted former sous chef Frank Reed, and Houseman’s Adam Baumgart is running Diner after working at the Williamsburg restaurant previously.
It’s a big change for the restaurants, where the previous chefs had been there in most cases for 10 to 12 years and had made each known for being reliable. So new chefs at each, especially all around the same time, had to be navigated in a careful way that didn’t change the souls of each restaurant. New menus and items have already been introduced at each spot.
“These people have a distinct voice, and we more or less have been in the process of changing menus every day. I think you can see everybody’s own touch — I would hope so,” he says. “I don’t want Patch to be making Ken’s food [the former Marlow & Sons chef]. but I think there’s a stylistic approach that they all fit into for those restaurants.”
Tarlow is also a unifying voice, as is Fidanza now, and he sees the two of them as “producers” who can help the chefs “realize their vision.” The result is new dishes such as fried sprouting broccoli with mushroom consomme and pickled cabbage at Marlow & Sons, posole rojo with tortillas, cilantro, and radish at Achilles Heel, and bucatini with bluefish conserva, wild fennel, and saffron at Roman’s.
This changing-of-the-guard of sorts makes Tarlow — even unintentionally — one of the most female-supporting restaurateurs in NYC, with two female head chefs out of five, plus Fidanza. In comparison, Danny Meyer has three out of 13 restaurants and David Chang two out of seven.
Coming up on its 20th anniversary on New Year’s Eve, Diner was Tarlow’s seminal restaurant, and with Fidanza, the two built the sustainable and farm-to-table ethos that infuses his other restaurants today — as well as so many others in the borough. That now extends to Tarlow committed to bringing all his businesses to no-tipping, with Achilles Heel the only one lagging and on schedule to join this year.
Moving forward, Tarlow, now 47 years old, plans to continue to focus on all the same things while nurturing this new set of chefs — who, if they are anything like their predecessors, could be in charge of the restaurants for 10-plus years.
“If I would say where the future should go, the story should be about them [the chefs], because they’re doing the hard work. I walk around and get complimented for their hard work. They’re not in the dining room, so it’s hard for them to get the compliments, but it’s interesting,” Tarlow says. “It’s not just me.”