JEAN-GEORGES RESTAURANTS | New York
While attending the Culinary Institute of America, Gregory
Brainin completed his externship with Chef David Burke at The
Park Avenue Café. After graduation, he returned to his
externship site. From there he worked with Chef Gary Robbins at
Aja and was a sous chef at Alison on Dominick St.
before joining Jean Georges in 1999.
Brainin has worked with Star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
for seven years. After being hired as a line cook at Jean Georges,
he was quickly promoted to sous chef there. Only nine months later,
he was named chef de cuisine and fulfilled that role for almost
five years. During this time he helped to develop and open 66
and Spice Market. In 2005, Brainin left Jean Georges
to open Perry St., which was awarded 3 stars by The
New York Times.
Seven months later, Brainin was promoted to his current
position as the Director of Creative Development for Jean Georges
Restaurants. As such he is responsible for the development of new
recipes for Jean Georges, which was awarded 3 Michelin
stars and 4 stars from The New York Times earlier this
year. Brainin also oversees recipe development for Nougatine,
Spice Market, 66, Perry St., Prime Steakhouse, and occasionally
Mercer Kitchen, JoJo, and Vong. He creates
the menus for new projects such as Lagoon, which recently
opened in Bora Bora, and he works closely with Jean-Georges Vongerichten
to develop new restaurant concepts around the world.
AB: Would you recommend culinary
school to your aspiring chefs?
GB: I think it really depends
on the individual. Cooking schools can give a good base of knowledge,
but I have found that some people respond better to a true production
atmosphere. I went to the CIA and it definitely worked for me.
AB: Who are your mentors?
GB: Jean Georges Vongerichten
has taught me the value of simplicity. David Burke helped show me
that there is no box.
AB: What is your philosophy
on food and dining?
GB: For me, cooking should
maximize the full potential of every ingredient. I try to access
different nuances of flavor within ingredients and layer them in
dynamic ways. Ideally, dining should be exhilarating for every sense.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients
that you especially like? Why?
GB: I wouldn’t say I
have any secrets, but I use many different chilies to really wake
up the palate.
AB: What flavor combinations
do you favor?
GB: I love spicy, sour, salty
AB: What is your most indispensable
kitchen tool? Why?
GB: Excluding hands, knives,
and my staff, I’d say my palate—it’s the only
thing I definitely cannot cook without.
AB: Is there a culinary technique
that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
GB: I would not say I have
created any culinary techniques. This is the most difficult thing
I do try to constantly rethink how things can be used and modified,
like cutting noodles from tuna or using meat as a wrapper for ravioli.
Sometimes you just stumble on cool things in everyday production,
like making skins out of mozzarella curd. I have made some very
versatile recipes for different heat stable foams, some of which
can be baked and poached.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
GB: Why do you cook? The answer
to this tells you exactly who someone will be in the kitchen, especially
if they tell you something they think you want to hear, they can
rarely qualify their answers when probed deeper.
AB: What tips would you offer
young cooks just getting started?
GB: I’d tell them to
focus, but also to relax, because when you’re too nervous
you can become dysfunctional.
AB: What are your favorite
GB: Simple Cuisine by Jean
Georges Vongerichten is my all time favorite—it’s a
bible of simplicity and explosive flavor. And the El Bulli books
are amazing, but only in English—I don’t have the patience
to get through the Spanish.
AB: What cities do you like
to go to for culinary travel?
GB: Bangkok, and if you’ve
been there then you know exactly why. They have the freshest and
most beautiful ingredients brought to life in really elegant dishes.
I also like Spain and Hong Kong.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants off the beaten path in New York?
GB: La Esquina, Noodletown,
AB: Where do you see yourself
in five or ten years?
GB: Maybe in 10 years I’ll
be able to open a little counter and work on exploring the nature
of flavor and taste. I would like to acquire enough knowledge to
someday write a book about this. I do believe that to a certain
degree there are objective truths about taste. I would love to contribute
to an understanding of why certain things taste so much better than
back to top