Ryan Hardy, executive chef at Italian fusion restaurant Charlie Bird and one-time private chef for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, describes his cooking style as “simple and often raw or crudo.”He’s celebrated for taking well-known Italian recipes and adding his own spin to them: his arancini, for example, uses eggplant as the primary ingredient and leaves out the rice. The chef recently visited The Daily Meal kitchen to demonstrate and share some of the Italian-inspired small plates on the menu at Charlie Bird.
“So many times we overlook the health of our food at a restaurant,” said Hardy. “Have you ever left a restaurant—even a good one—feeling overly-stuffed? To me that food hangover or lack thereof is as much a part of the experience as the meal itself. We want you to always feel great here. We don’t concentrate on health food. We concentrate on food that happens to be healthy.”
For Hardy, that means focusing on seafood and being generous with olive oil and citrus flavors: take his scallop, langoustine, and crab crudo bite peppered with pistachios and lemon, arranged neatly on seashells; or fluke-topped crostini mixed with chopped hazelnuts, apples, and drizzled with peppery olive oil. Hardy’s crostini topped with bold horseradish cream, pungent tongues of uni (sea urchin), and an unexpected slice of smoky Kentucky ham also demonstrated his versatility with flavors.
No Charlie Bird party would be complete without the restaurant’s signature bread, served before every meal: fried slices of focaccia drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and topped with a scoop of fresh ricotta. Although he likes to eat healthily and simply, chef Hardy admits that he loves to indulge in skillfully baked bread.