Johanna Kolodny is the resident forager for PRINT. Restaurant, the first solo project by longtime restaurant consultant, Adam Block. She works with Chef Charles Rodriguez and Executive Pastry Chef Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez at the restaurant in the Ink Hotel in Midtown New York.
PRINT Restaurant. - 653 Eleventh Ave, New York - (212)757-2224
It’s a pleasure and refreshing to work with Executive Chef Charles Rodriguez and Executive Pastry Chef Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez. Having not worked for a restaurant prior to Print. but in the food industry at large, I’m fairly confident in saying that I’ve lucked out. We have a really fun, respectful and collaborative relationship.
At its most basic level, Heather and Charles tell me what they need. But I also offer them items that they didn’t request. One of the main challenges is getting them the item they need when they want it. Farmers don’t deliver seven days a week nor is a Greenmarket always open and close enough.
The challenge is even greater with local meat. It’s practically impossible to order meat for the next day let alone a day or two in advance. I try to figure out a middle ground. Most of the time they are willing to break out of the box and try new things. Though occasionally, it takes a bit of time or maybe they never even try an item. The restaurant is still in its infancy and the chefs are working extremely hard with little downtime. As they develop a solid, supportive staff I’m confident that they will have more time to be creative and digest things I offer them.
Working with the farmers and cooperatives also offer their own challenges. For instance, we can order an item, but we may not receive it. I’ve worked hard on getting farmers to inform me as soon as they know we won’t get a certain item. In turn, I can attempt to get it elsewhere as opposed to scrambling the day of delivery.
Other challenges include finding the time to visit farms, especially ones I’ve never been to before. Most of my time is spent in the city. As much as I put farmers on a pedestal, there are a few that corrupt the bunch. I need to make sure that what I think is happening on the farm in fact is the reality. Furthermore, as much as I act as a conduit for the chefs to the farms and the greenmarket, it’s important that they accompany me once in a while. I can bring them all the product they want but there is something to be said for the inspiration of visiting the farms and markets. It's something they definitely enjoy too, and as they get more free time this will happen more often.
On Ordering: Deadlines, Pricing and a Shift to Purchasing Whole Animals
Our ordering procedure is atypical for most restaurants. I’m constantly harassing the chefs to keep up with multiple order deadlines-- sometimes days in advance of receiving the products. They take it in stride considering all of their responsibilities. Trying to get into this rhythm is challenging, but we’re getting the hang of it. Pricing has also been a point of disputation. Working directly with small and medium size farmers means you are paying the real cost of food production. It’s taking time for the chefs to adapt to some higher food costs.
Not surprisingly, the protein department has taken longer to get going than the produce department. Though winter presents a bit of a challenge. Besides continuing to purchase locally, I have to try to get traceable, sustainable produce from California and Florida in an economical fashion. That's a work in progress.
We’re slowly working towards purchasing whole animals. About a month ago we started receiving a quarter of a steer at a time. My goal is to eliminate industrially-raised proteins from our menu. Furthermore, educating customers about grassfed meat and adjusting their preferences takes time.
Seafood is faring better but I’d like to work on the traceability factor. It has been a challenge to satisfy the chefs while also satisfying my goals. Not that they are mutually exclusive but they have greater pressure, including the demands of running the kitchen, creating the menus and satisfying the customers. I try to look at purchasing from their perspective while maintaining a steady pace forward. I greatly anticipate seeing where we are several months from now and how far we’ve come.