Surveying the heroes of the Brooklyn food scene with a selection of fine chronographs.
Photographs by Doug Young
It’s almost as easy to lampoon the great awakening of American eating (“The chicken’s name was Colin. Here are his papers.”) as it is easy to lampoon modern-day Brooklyn (“Nah man, Martha’s, that new artisanal mayonnaise spot.”) But the fedora foodies are moving to Ohio, and the half-cocked concept joints closing down, leaving behind only the smartest, realest, most passionate culinary characters. The kind of characters that made Brooklyn’s food scene so remarkable to begin with. The kind of characters that make modern dining feel like a privilege.
In recognition, we spent two days touring the borough, catching up with its most exciting and influential local chefs. We talked about food and progress and the city. Then we dressed them in exciting and influential chronographs, newcomers and mainstays, and photographed them inside the kitchen.
Each chef had a different way of thinking about food. But they all agreed on one thing: It’s a damn good time to be cooking (and dining) in Brooklyn.
Name: Chef T.J. Steele
Known for: Spending more than a decade in Mexico, embedded with local cooks and mezcaleros, then returning to New York and blowing minds.
Wearing: Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica 44mm, $14,700; panerai.com
He says: “All the décor comes straight from my friends in Oaxaca. The bar tiles are from Francisco Toledo and Dr. Lakra. They did the murals, too. There was this famous cantina down there, and it had a mural with three pigs cooking a woman. So we kinda did our own thing with it. Three goats. Pretty great, right?”
284 3rd Avenue
Name: Emily and Melissa Elsen
Known for: Making patisseries cool again.
Wearing: (Emily, left) Omega Speedmaster 38 Co-Axial Chronograph, $4,900; omegawatches.com + (Melissa, right) Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, $12,400; rolex.com
They say: “Old-school Brooklyn baking is very much Italian, very traditional. New Brooklyn is lot of people like us. More casual, more home-style. When we came here in 1999, it was all delis, you know? Now there’s a coffee shop on every corner.”
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Avenue
Name: Chef Dale Talde
Known for: Besides finishing sixth on Top Chef? Probably the pretzeled dumplings.
Wearing: Jaquet Droz SW Chrono $17,300; jaquet-droz.com
He says: “There’s an ability to take risks out here. Maybe more so before, when rent was cheap. It was the Wild West. When we opened, I couldn’t name another restaurant on Seventh Ave. Did I think I’d still be serving that pretzel dish six years later? No. But I’m happy doing it, because that’s what the neighborhood wants. This restaurant belongs to their neighborhood. If you’re a chef, and you haven’t caught onto that yet, you’re fucking lost.”
369 Seventh Avenue
Name: Chef Erin Shambura
Known for: Creating a buzzy, wine-focused Italian restaurant that actually lives up to the hype.
Wearing: Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane, $5,100; hermes.comShe says: “We wanted a 1950s Italy feel, but in a modern-day Brooklyn setting. I lived in the Veneto, about 30 kilometers from Venice. The traditional, hand-extruded pasta has sentimental value to me. We’ve got this Tajarin, an egg-based noodle, a play on carbonara, so instead of heavy black pepper in the sauce, the black pepper is in the actual noodle. We’re serving it with ramps, house-cured pancetta, finished with an organic egg … People have so much more knowledge about food than they ever have. They’re eating so many more things. So we can have the pastas, but also sardines and whole fish, presented on the bone. It’s beautiful.”
348 Flatbush Avenue
Name: Chef Vincent Fraissange & Cat Alexander
Known for: One of the borough’s smartest seasonal menus, dished up at an unpretentious bistro hidden under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Wearing: (Vincent, right) Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph, $23,900; jaeger-lecoultre.com + (Cat, left) Throne Watches Fragment 2.0, $495; thronewatches.com
They say: “We got married three years ago, and started a catering company. We were looking for spaces, basically a commissary kitchen, and saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. We live like a block away, and this was a famous butcher shop in the neighborhood, Graham Avenue Meats, a staple for like thirty years. Once we signed the lease, we were like, ‘Man, the neighborhood really needs a restaurant.’ So we just went for it.”
445 Graham Avenue
Name: Chef Justin Bazdarich
Known for: Initiating Brooklynites to gourmet-level, rustic wood-fired eats.
Wearing: Patek Philippe Ref. 5905P Chronograph with Annual Calendar, $78,250; patek.com
He says: “My other restaurants [Speedy Romeo] have wood-burning ovens. At first, New York City said we couldn’t have a wood-burning grill. We had to figure out all this stuff with permitting, but we got it done. So I’m sticking with that wood-fired theme here [at Oxomoco], but just doing Mexican cuisine.”
128 Greenpoint Avenue