2019 New York Rising Star Chef TJ Steele of Claro

2019 New York Rising Star Chef TJ Steele of Claro
January 2019

Claro
284 3rd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
clarobk.com

Photos

TJ Steele was born into an Italian family in New Jersey, where he grew up cooking next to his mother and grandmother. As early as middle school, he preferred the kitchen to the classroom and started working as a dishwasher when he was 12 years old. He never looked back. 

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2002, Steele began his career at Union Square Cafe. Three years later, he became their youngest executive sous chef at 25. After a trip to Oaxaca in 2006, Steele fell in love with the region and became determined to bring the high quality mezcal he tasted to the United States. He founded El Buho Mezcal, working with a local Oaxacan family to get their artisanal, affordable mezcal distributed broadly. Today, their product is available in more than 20 states and internationally. From 2010 to 2012, Steele served as kitchen manager at Chelsea tapas spot Tia Pol. 

In 2012, he returned to Oaxaca and set up a residence, splitting time between Brooklyn and Mexico. After five years of studying, traveling, and eating his way through Oaxaca, Steele opened Claro in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Staying as true to Oaxacan cuisine as possible, Steele and his team make all their cheeses, chorizo, mole, and masa in house. In 2018, Claro received a Michelin star and two stars in The New York Times. Steele plans to open a mariscos-style restaurant in Williamsburg, followed by a tortilleria and more casual concepts.