On Having an In-House Forager
Executive Pastry Chef Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez works along with her husband, Chef Charles Rodriguez at PRINT. Restaurant in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen.
PRINT. - 653 Eleventh Ave, New York - (212)757-2224
Why Having an In-house Forager Makes Sense
It has been an amazing learning experience having a full-time in-house forager. Johanna Kolodny came to PRINT. with an amazing amount of knowledge and education in many facets of food, sustainability and countless other areas.
Johanna shares an office with Charles Rodriguez, the Executive Chef and me, keeping our food conversation going all day, every day. She has brought to our attention everything from what other foragers are doing and proper slaughterhouse practices, to what level of quality we are willing to work with.
Accessibility to Johanna has made our jobs easier in that she has brought us into better communication with farmers and artisans. This is something that we could have worked on ourselves, but this is a new kitchen and we need to spend a considerable amount of time in it. We serve an 80-seat fine dining restaurant, do banquets at our roof bar, and do room service for the hotel. Without Johanna we wouldn’t have the time to both make the introductions or nurture the relationships in such a short amount of time.
With Johanna’s help, we have been able to take on projects in PRINT.’s infancy such as being the pick-up location for the Hell’s Kitchen CSA, being asked to take part in the James Beard Foundation’s first roundtable for sustainability, and taking part in events that as chefs reared in New York City's fine dining world, we were unaware of, but more than thrilled to be invited to attend.
Creating a Process
There have certainly been adjustments that have had to be made in creating a system that includes an in-house forager, but I would never call it a difficulty. There is a balance that we have strike to both serve our customers the best cuisine possible with the best service, as well as stick to the farming practices we believe in. We are in the hospitality business, and though Johanna would argue otherwise, and we agree with her, it is difficult to tell a hotel guest he can’t have a tomato with his grass-fed burger in February.
Our ordering is much more fluid. There is much more give with what we order and what actually comes in when delivered. A rainstorm, a drought, or any other act of nature can change everything. It’s up to us and Johanna to figure out what to do about it. Having her creates a more educated team.
This education spreads to the front-of- House staff as well. They’re able to learn right from Johanna and find out not just about the food ,but the people that grew it, raised it. Many of the farmers come to eat here when they’re in town and because of this staff education, they're treated like VIPS, and bombarded with questions from the waitstaff.
In turn, we are educating Johanna about cuisine and the restaurant lifestyle. I think it’s been a pay-off for everyone.