Chef Spotlight: CHEF JULIAN CLAUSS-EHLERS Chef of Trattoria Bianca in NYC
Julian Clauss-Ehlers is an internationally renowned French-trained chef who has pleased the palates of diners across the globe, and has been delighting Americans with his food since 2000, when he was recognized as one of New York's "Emerging Chefs" by the Colbert Foundation.
Clauss-Ehlers began his culinary career in his birthplace, a London suburb, where he attended Slough College of Higher Education for culinary studies. He concurrently worked at the Michelin-starred Oak Room Restaurant at Le Meridien Hotel. After graduation, he moved to France and the kitchen of Le Mas d'Artigny on the Côte d'Azur.
Clauss-Ehlers next worked at Michelin two-star Les Domaines in the Haute-Loire and the three-star Les Prés d'Eugénie, before returning to England as head chef of Lower Slaughter Manor in the Cotswolds. In 1995, he opened his own restaurant, The Green Dragon, on the site of a 250-year-old inn outside London.
He relocated to the United States in 1999 to head the kitchen of the French brasserie Acacia, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. After travels in North Africa, he opened Zitoune -- a Moroccan restaurant in New York City's Meatpacking District that has received considerable industry acclaim. He also developed menus for other restaurants including Link and Monkey Bar, a New York City staple since the 1930s, and most recently served as Executive Chef at Cooper's Tavern in Midtown West.
In 2014, Clauss-Ehlers joined the team at Trattoria Bianca, a classic informal Italian restaurant serving traditional trattoria fare. In addition to his culinary experience, Clauss-Ehlers has been involved with Days of Taste, a program operated by the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) that educates and enlightens youth in public schools about the importance of locally grown produce and how it could impact their lives.
Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Chef Julian Clauss-Ehlers about his career and Trattoria Bianca.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
I realized my passion when I was eight or nine. I loved to eat, cook and experiment. I found the whole business of food fascinating. I clearly recall at about eight years old, regularly making myself a runny cheese, ham and mushroom omelette for breakfast.
Who were some of your career mentors?
The most significant chef in my early career was Michel Lorain, owner of 'La Cote St Jacques' in France. I worked for him initially at Le Meridien hotel in London, where he was the consultant chef for our gastronomic restaurant. I asked him if I could work for him in France, he said, 'learn French, then call me', so I went to France to work in a one star Michelin restaurant on the Cote d'Azur. I called him within a year (speaking French) and he gave me a job immediately, I subsequently spent two years at his three star Michelin restaurant in Burgundy.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
The biggest influence in my culinary portfolio has obviously been France, I loved the five years I spent in the country. I lived in four different regions while I was there and absorbed the gastronomic essence of the people and the place. In 2001, I went to Morocco, spending time in people's homes, at the top hotels and restaurants in the country. It was so different to what I had previously experienced as a chef, and it holds a special place in my heart.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
I have been lucky to work with many wonderful chefs and restaurateurs both in Europe and here in New York. Each one of those experiences has been a chance for me to learn and grow as a professional chef. Part of being a chef is to be passionate about cooking and to know how to achieve that elusive flavor or presentation. And to share those culinary sensations with guests, but another part of being a chef is
understanding how to nurture the talents and aspirations of the cooks who work for you. Even to be a small influence to the next generation of chefs is a rewarding and valuable part of my current position.
What is your favorite meal?
Firstly, and this may come as a bit of a surprise, but I love to eat at other people's homes. Hosts are quite often terrified to cook for a professional but for me it's a real treat, people really knock themselves out and most of the time, it's really good. But I do also have a weakness for wild mushrooms, truffles and foie gras, all of which I experienced in their natural setting in France. Just seeing, smelling and tasting those delicacies takes me back to my journey of discovery as a youth in a foreign country.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Trattoria Bianca brings affordable Italian fare to the bustling neighborhood; where workers, residents and visitors don't have many dining options. We serve classic Italian dishes as well as Italian-American favorites. Guests can find anything from thin-crust pizzas to Tuscan-style steak or enjoy our wide selection of pastas. The restaurant is a short walk from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, so it's the perfect meet-up spot for lunch or dinner. We have daily lunch specials and pre-theater menu too!
Trattoria Bianca is located at 481 8th Avenue (between 34th and 35th Street) New York, NY 10001. Call (212) 268-8460 or visit: http://trattoriabianca.com/.
Broadwayworld.com's Naomi Serviss wrote a recent review of Trattoria Bianca. You can read it by visiting: /bwwfood-wine/article/BWW-Review-TRATTORIA-BIANCA-Simple-Italian-Fare-with-Flair-20141203.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chef Julian Clauss-Ehlers