Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef JULIAN ALONZO of New York Botanical Gardens
Chef Julian Alonzo brings a truly global culinary perspective and over two decades of industry experience to Starr Events and the New York Botanical Garden. A New York City native, Julian began his culinary career at 16 with an internship at renowned restaurant Montrachet while enrolled in City-As-School. Inspired by the precision of Chef David Bouley's kitchen, Julian attended the French Culinary Institute and was later named "Alumni Chef of the Year". During his time, Julian honed his skills at both La Caravelle and Maxim's under Chef David Ruggiero. After graduation, Julian continued his culinary education abroad, rigorously perfecting French technique at Guy Savoy in Paris and exploring global flavors in Martinique and Ixtapa. Julian returned to New York four years later to cook in some of the most inventive and prestigious restaurants in the city including at Brasserie 8 ½, which was lauded for its vibrant, contemporary menu created during Julian's tenure as Executive Chef.
After receiving praise from Crain's New York Business and an invitation to cook at the James Beard Foundation, Julian undertook a new challenge: bringing innovative restaurant-inspired fare to the world of catering and special events. At the helm of the new Hudson Garden Grill, Julian brings his New American approach of locally sourced, globally inspired fare to the New York Botanical Garden.
Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Executive Chef Julian Alonzo about his career, Starr Events and the New York Botanical Gardens.
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
As a teenager, I had no idea I wanted to be a chef until I went to a vocation high school in the West Village. There, we took up internships in various fields, and I chose cooking because I thought it would be fun. I was placed in a restaurant called Montrachet at the time, and worked with Chef David Bouley. The rest is history.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I've worked with many great chefs - Guy Savoy, David Bouley, David Ruggerio and many more. But the one who I call my mentor is Edward Brown. I was his sous chef at the Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center in the 90s and we are still very close. He taught me many things and I am so grateful that he was there to guide me.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I am classically French-trained, but I do use a lot of Latin influences because of my heritage. Maybe that's why I love cooking fish so much. I grew up watching my father always making ceviche and different Latin dishes with seafood.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
That's a tough one, but what comes to mind is that over the years, I have developed my own style with cooking. I feel confident enough to say that I am very creative in the kitchen and I mix flavors well. I love cooking Modern American because there's so much you can do with that particular style of cooking. Here at Hudson Garden Grill (at The New York Botanical Garden), I've combined both modern and rustic dishes to my menu. One of our signature dishes is the Hamachi Tartare, which is a great example of classic and modern flavors and textures coming together.
What is your favorite meal?
My mom's cooking, I love going home and having my mom cook for me, pure simple Spanish-style cooking. Otherwise, I love anything pasta. I make fresh pasta at home with my son, Julian. He simply likes it with butter and cheese but I go for a variety of flavors. The best meal I had this year was at Benu in San Francisco - an amazing meal by Cory Lee.
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Hudson Garden Grill is my new baby - modern American cuisine with rustic touches all over the menu. I like to think of it as "Farm To Table-ish." We have an amazing combination of flavors on the menu and source our ingredients locally as often as possible. The menu is constantly changing so there's really something for everyone.
For more information on Hudson Garden Grill and the other dining establishments at the New York Botanical Gardens, please visit http://www.nybg.org/visit/dining.php.
Photo: Courtesy of Julian Alonzo