BRASSERIE | New York
Franklin Becker's life has always centered around food. Born
and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Becker began cooking at very young
age out of necessity, when his mother became ill. By the time he
was 14, he was working in a professional kitchen, and throughout
high school and college, he spent all his free time cooking.
After college, Becker attended the Culinary Institute
of America, graduating with honors. Later he went on to work closely
with Chef Bobby Flay. Having cooked in the past for Revlon magnate
Ronald Perelman, Becker has also held the post of Executive Chef
at several New York establishments including Local, Capitale
and both the Tribeca Grand and Soho Grand Hotels. Most recently
he was the Executive Chef of Washington Square in Philadelphia.
Becker is now Executive Chef at Brasserie in New York.
This landmark restaurant first opened in 1959 and underwent a complete
modernization in 2000. Here Becker lends a light and modern touch
to classic brasserie fare.
In 1997, at the age of 27, Becker was diagnosed with
type 2 diabetes. Rather than give up and despair, Becker transformed
his cooking style and learned to use simple ingredients to create
delicious and healthy dishes, even writing a cookbook on diabetes,
The Diabetic Chef.
AB: Did you attend culinary
school? Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs today?
Why or why not?
FB: I attended the CIA and
highly recommend school provided the student has a full understanding
of the demands the industry puts upon us. School gives clarity,
provides students with the basics, and gives a sense of community.
Community and teamwork are key factors to succeeding in the kitchen.
AB: Who do you consider to
be your primary mentor?
FB: I guess looking back on
my career, Bobby Flay comes to mind.
AB: How has he inspired you?
FB: Bobby’s bold palate
and plate presentations inspired me most. Having worked at several
run-of-the-mill restaurants prior to attending school, I had never
seen such elaborate presentations before. It was 1993 and Bobby
AB: What did you find most
rewarding working under him?
FB: He had a chef de cuisine,
Jan Sendel who was a pit bull; he’s since passed away. Nothing
got past him. He was organized and ran the kitchen with grace and
AB: What did you learn from
him about the following:
FB: a. cooking - That sky’s
the limit and if you like the way it tastes, someone else will too.
FB: b. managing a staff and
leadership – He was efficient and he spoke to everyone with
respect. He did not stifle anyone’s ideas, but rather encouraged
FB: c. running a business –
It’s a balancing act. Everyday a monkey wrench gets thrown
into your plans. You have to roll with the punches.
AB: How would
you describe your leadership style?
FB: I lead with a firm hand,
but always encourage free thought. If someone wants to show me something,
I’ll see it--provided their mise en place is done first. I
am very even and fair, but by no means a push over. I guess my style
is very much like Bobby’s was back then.
AB: What is the
most valuable lesson you have learned over the course of your career
thus far? What about greatest challenges so far?
FB: Do not burn your bridges--this
industry is way too small. And, in order to be on top, you cannot
sleep! Raising two children and not really having enough time to
spend with them is tough.
AB: What is your
most indispensable kitchen tool, and why?
FB: For me, the vita prep blender
by vita mix. I love the variable speed feature that enables me to
create smoother purees and cleaner infusions.
AB: What are
a few of your favorite cookbooks?
FB: Essential cuisine by Michel
Bras, The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, and Fish and
Shellfish by James Peterson. These are three of my favorite cookbooks.
They all have influenced my style of cooking.
AB: What flavor
combinations do you favor?
FB: Sweet and savory together
in desserts, crustaceans and creme fraiche, grapefruit and avocado,
orange and fennel, rhubarb and fennel, mushrooms and crustaceans,
and citrus and anything.
AB: Have you
traveled to other culinary destinations? Have you completed any
FB: I traveled to Italy and
Greece and staged in Positano and Ischia, two islands off the Amalfi
coast of Italy.
AB: Where do
you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? What are your goals for the
future? Do you dream of owning your own restaurant? Why or why not?
FB: Hopefully, I will be in
a better position with the company. My goals have always been to
own my own restaurant. But if it does not happen, a slice of the
pie wouldn’t be so bad. It’s tough owning your own place,
I don’t sleep now, imagine if it were my place?
AB: What is your
favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new
FB: Why do you want to cook?
the most important piece of advice or tip you have to share with
young, aspiring chefs?
FB: Be patient, work hard,
and do not worry about what the next guy is doing, concentrate on
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