Chef Josh Eden
Shorty's .32 | New York
Known among his industry peers as “Shorty,” Josh Eden opened his namesake 32-seat restaurant and first solo project in SoHo in late 2007. Eden’s background is in fine dining, and Shorty’s .32 is a direct departure; the neighborhood restaurant offers reasonably-priced, straightforward, seasonal American food. But the execution and across-the-board great flavor makes it clear that Eden has some serious experience under his belt.
A born-and-bred New Yorker, Eden grew up cooking for his family and bartending throughout Manhattan. After attending the University of Maine, Eden returned home to enroll in the French Culinary Institute. At the same time, he began bussing tables at Daniel to get into the industry. It worked, and when he graduated from culinary school (with honors) he landed an entry-level position at Cascabel with chef Tom Valenti. The next year he began his 12-year tenure with Jean-George Vongerichten.
Eden started as a cook at JoJo (his nickname started there, too), then earned a spot on the team at Vongerichten’s four-star restaurant, Jean Georges, where he worked the kitchen stations from garde manger to saucier. After 5 years he was promoted to senior sous chef, and later that year (2000) appointed as executive chef of Vongerichten’s Dune Restaurant in the Ocean Club, Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Eden embraced the position, even bringing New York seeds to local Bahamian farmers and encouraging them to cultivate the produce necessary to keep his kitchen running.
In 2003, Eden returned to New York and came full circle to JoJo, as chef de cuisine. He then helped Vongerichten open his restaurant 66 before acting as a consultant on several projects, including Xing in Hell’s Kitchen. Following years of contemplating his own property and supporting his fellow chefs and mentors, Eden conceived his humble neighborhood restaurant looking upon the facade of the quintessential SoHo brownstone. This is the character of Shorty’s – which has a small kitchen, a small chef, and a lotta soul.
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Will Blunt: What year did you start your cooking career? What inspired you to start cooking professionally?
Josh Eden: In 1993 I started working with Daniel Boulud as busboy. I knew he wouldn’t have me as a cook with no experience, but I was inspired by the integrity, care, and dedication.
WB: Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?
JE: I went to FCI and I would recommend it. I think it always helps for basics, but there are a lot of self taught differences.
WB: Who are some of your mentors?
JE: Jean-Georges Vongerichten – he told me that the day you’re ready to cook for your customers and not yourself is the day you are ready to cook. Jean-Georges taught me about flavor combinations and how to cook. He explained how to develop a palate. Daniel Boulud taught me how to command a kitchen, and why there is a hierarchy.
WB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you are interviewing them outside the kitchen?
JE: I always want to know about who they are outside the kitchen – music, interests, etc. I look for a willingness to learn.
WB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JE: Don’t skip steps, and work every station. Find someone you like and stay there.
WB: What ingredient that you like do you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
JE: Spinach – nobody ever wants to use it anywhere. It’s healthy and has depth. String beans remind me of my childhood and in fine dining, it’s generally thought that haricots verts are the standard – but good old string beans are good enough!
WB: What are some of your favorite flavor combinations?
JE: Pork and peas; orange and chocolate; lemon and parsley; peanut butter and chocolate.
WB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
JE: The Vita-Prep blender – that thing is a workhorse. I got a new one right before I opened this place.
WB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or borrowed and use in an unusual way?
JE: Green beans – most people would blanch them in hot water but we blanch in hot oil and shock them in ice water. The beans blister a little and take on a little bit of a different texture. We also do garlic in an interesting way – we fry the garlic and dry it, then sprinkle it on the salad. It lends a certain sweetness.
WB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
JE: Michel Bras’s Essential Cuisine.
WB: Where would you go for culinary travel?
JE: Spain. I think the culinary industry is really embraced in Spain. The whole day revolves around food which is really nice for creative chefs.
WB: What are your favorite restaurants off the beaten path?
JE: I definitely hit Sushi Samba and Blue Ribbon after service a lot.
WB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
JE: I think people are really eating more and they aren’t afraid to eat less lightly. There’s less fuss and more casual dining.
WB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JE: Just keep it as simple as you can.
WB: Which person in history would you most like to cook for and what would you serve them?
JE: I’d love to have cooked for Jerry Garcia back in the day. I’d have to find out what he liked to eat first…but I would dig it.
WB: How are you involved in your local culinary community?
JE: We are involved over at the Tenement museum where I’m on the immigrant food council, which was put together to talk and see what the museum could do in terms of the cultural aspect of food in that neighborhood during those times. We focus on themes like Passover dinner or Hanukkah parties. I do some James Beard events and I try to meet my neighbors and all the folks that live around there. We try to make so it can be very neighborhood accessible. I know my mailman by first name.
WB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
JE: I think I would have been a fireman.
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