|The Travertine space reopens tonight as Ken & Cook|
Zagat: What is exciting you about Ken and Cook?
Richrd Diamonte: The freedom. I worked for Jean-Georges for eight years, and it got me where I am, but I was always cooking Jean-Georges food. Here it’s my vision.
Z: And what is that vision?
RD: I want to do something a bit more casual; to cook for my peers. I used to look around the dining room and it was a very select group of people.
Z: The prices are casual and the room is relaxed, but the dishes are still sophisticated.
RD: I want this to be more accessible, but my team comes from fine dining. The ingredients are serious and we have all learned high-end techniques.
Z: Where do you source the ingredients?
RD: 70 percent of our produce is from Union Square Market and we also use Satur Farms on Long Island. For oysters, I like Island Creek from Massachusetts. They have six to eight kinds of east coast varieties and they are honest; they will tell you what they like. It’s really a relationship.
Z: What are your favorite dishes on the menu?
RD: I’m really into the squid with Greek yogurt, fingerling potatoes, mint and chili. I also love the monkfish which is pan roasted; basted with a little butter and thyme and served with grilled fennel and a touch of fennel pollen.
Z: We've noticed that all your pastas have a little element of crunch.
RD: Yes, I like the texture. I put toasted breadcrumbs on the papardelle with veal, fried clams and the linguini and pine nuts with the fettuccini and roasted cauliflower.
Z: Where did you come up with that last dish?
RD: Every Saturday at Jean Georges, the chefs would cook for each other. I just made that with chicken stock and a drop of butter one night and everybody liked it.
Z: The flavors in general taste very fresh.
RD: I’m not a big spice guy. I use a lot of fresh herbs, citrus juices and vinaigrettes to bring that out.
Z: What was the best thing about the last two nights?
RD: It sounds lame, but I am 31 and this is my first restaurant. After spending so much time in this space the last few months, it was a rush to peek out of the kitchen at 9:30 and see the room full of people eating.