Just a stone’s throw from Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater is COLORS, a new restaurant serving an entirely gluten-free menu in a romantic setting (we listened 90 solid minutes of Sinatra’s Greatest Hits). Executive chef Colt Taylor talked to The Daily Meal about fine dining in the absence of pesky wheat and grain.
How have you seen the gluten-free landscape change across New York?
More restaurants are offering gluten-free dishes due to the high demand for them. A lot of restaurants make notations on their menus to indicate that a dish can be made gluten-free. We never used to see gluten-free pasta offered in restaurants, but we see a lot of that now.
It seems that at many restaurants, gluten-free options are in no short supply. Why was there a need for a gluten-free restaurant?
People who have gluten allergies or are celiac always have to be concerned with cross-contamination. If a grill is used to heat up a bun, and then the same grill is used to cook a steak, a celiac will get ill for days after eating that steak. That is not an issue at COLORS because nothing with gluten ever comes through our kitchen.
What’s the allure for those who are gluten-eaters?
Our concept is to offer some dishes that typically have gluten, like fried chicken, fish and chips, and our chocolate cupcake, and make them taste so good that our guests can't tell they are prepared gluten-free. We have a social mission as well as a culinary one: support and model workplace justice in restaurants. Our parent company is the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which has been working for years to improve working conditions in the restaurant industry by advocating for paid sick days, abolishing the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, and providing free training for restaurant workers who are trying to move up within the industry to jobs that pay livable wages, among other issues.
I imagine that for some of these recipes, you have to get quite creative. What are some of the most innovative substitutions you've cooked up?
The most difficult item was the chocolate cupcake. When I was the chef at One if by Land, there was a bridal shower and the bride was celiac. Her maid of honor wanted to make sure she had a rich, chocolate cake "like the Hostess cupcake of her youth." I experimented with recipes for weeks until I got it right.