Chef Daniel Eardley
Chestnut | New York
Daniel Eardley first appreciated sustainable agriculture while working on his family’s small upstate New York farm as a child.
He attended culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America
in Hyde Park, NY and graduated with honors. His first job out of
school was in Napa at Tra Vigne. From there, he traveled
throughout the valley and San Francisco working for free to learn
as much as he could about the industry.
He worked for Larry Forgione at American Place in St. Louis
for several years. At the end of its run, he left to open Washington
Park in New York under mentor Jonathan Waxman. After its closing,
Daniel traveled around Mexico and Europe before returning to New
York for consulting work. Soon afterward, Daniel landed at Chestnut
in Brooklyn, where he focuses on organic products from small local
farms, minimal preparations and accessible wines to match. He still
frequents Hudson Valley to forage for indigenous ingredients, such
as wild mushrooms and ramps.
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TR&EH: Where else
have you worked?
DE: I worked at The Tribune in Willamette Valley, then I moved to help out a friend at American Place. When I came to New York, I got a job working with Jonathan Waxman at Washington Park. I left there, worked at a bad place which I won’t name, then opened Chestnut where I’ve been for the last 2 years.
TR&EH: Would you recommend
culinary school to aspiring cooks?
DE: I would recommend it,
but I think you should go into it with a little experience under
your belt. The more actual restaurant experience you have, the more
you’re able to get out of school. The Culinary Institute of
America, in particular, is the biggest resource this country has
for culinary education, which is great. They have a library with
over 70,000 volumes of food-related, non-fiction reading material
– I spent so much time there, it’s amazing.
TR&EH: Who are some
of your mentors?
DE: Jonathan Waxman, who
I worked with at American Place, gives his staff lots of
freedom to do their own thing. He’s really big on foraging
– he got me into sourcing all kinds of stuff for myself.
TR&EH: What advice
would you offer young chefs just getting started?
DE: Work at a place for
a year, see what happens, and then move on. Don’t worry about
money. A chef’s life appears much more glamorous than it actually
is – it’s rough.
TR&EH: What is your
personal culinary philosophy?
DE: I want diners at Chestnut
to feel like they’re going to their grandmother’s house
for dinner – their grandmother who is a really great cook.
It should feel like home here. It’s a restaurant with no strict
cultural identity, although we always keep a Mexican dish on the
menu as homage to my predominantly Mexican kitchen staff.
TR&EH: What ingredient
that you like to you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
DE: Lovage. That’s
where it’s at. I found some at the green market yesterday
and I bought them out! Celery seed in pickling spices is actually
lovage seed; you can make pesto with it, puree it, and it freezes
TR&EH: What are your
favorite flavor combinations?
DE: Sweet, salty and spicy.
I really like Chinese 5-spice, but in general, three flavors is
all you need. You start with two dominant flavors, like sweet and
salty, then add a more subtle flavor to temper the other two. They
all end up marrying really well – you get all the multiplicity
of flavors without overcomplicating it with too many components.
TR&EH:What are your
DE: Lessons in Service
from Charlie Trotter. I like Greens Cookbook by Deborah
Madison – she is just too cool for school, you know? And then
there’s Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook,
TR&EH: What languages
do you speak?
TR&EH: What are your
favorite restaurants off-the-beaten-path in your city?
on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s the only place in
west Brooklyn that makes their carnitas with lard, which is really
authentic and awesome.
TR&EH: Which person
in history would you most like to cook for? Who would you serve?
Who would you most like to cook for you?
DE: I’d like Martha
Washington to come here. She was pretty cool in terms of her knowledge
of and concern with the science of agriculture.
TR&EH: What are some
of your favorite food-related charities?
DE: Brooklyn Eats.
TR&EH: If you weren’t
a chef, what do you think you’d be doing?
DE: I think I’d be
a ski instructor in British Colombia, or a snowboarder. Or I could
go the starving artist route and be a photographer. I feel like
I was made to be a starving artist.
TR&EH: What does success
mean for you?
DE: For me, it’s
the beneficial proliferation of local, sustainable ingredients.
I’m successful when I’m able to make the absolute best
of the products the local farmers provide me with, no matter how
scarce the season. Basically, staying natural with my cooking regardless
of circumstance, that’s success.
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