The Interview: Chef Amy Eubanks
Amy Eubanks has quietly been turning out some of New York’s finest seafood dishes since taking the helm at BLT Fish and BLT Fish Shack in New York’s Gramercy neighborhood in 2010. She got her start as garde manger at Café Boulud, where she became the first female in the history of the restaurant to work the protein station, then went over to be the lead cook at BLT Steak until BLT Fish opened in 2005. She started there as sous chef, then chef de cuisine, then finally executive chef.
Eubanks shows a deft hand with her preparation of the menu items, which vary from delicate hamachi crudo with golden beets, avocado, and grapefruit to a punchy seared escolar with blood orange, parsnip, and pistachio to greenmarket-sourced sides like wild mushrooms with pearl onions and crème fraîche and caramelized cauliflower semi-dried tomato pesto and basil. Her knowledge of which flavors pair best with different varieties of fish is encyclopedic, and every plate at her restaurant opens doors that even the most ardent seafood lovers might not have known existed.
Eubank’s love of marine life and local seafood doesn’t end at her kitchen, either; when not in the kitchen, she can be found sailing the Manhattan harbor.
The Daily Meal: What was your first restaurant industry job?
Amy Eubanks: La Fourchette with chef Marc Murphy. It was his first executive chef position in New York. Beautiful restaurant and amazing introduction to the industry.
When you first walk into a restaurant, what do you look for as signs that it´s well-run, will be a good experience, etc.?
Obviously the host or hostess is the first sign. Do they look like they are happy to see you or are they sizing you up? I try to get a peek at the kitchen and see if it looks clean. If they serve bread, is the bread warm? If it comes with butter, is the butter soft? If they serve tortilla chips, are they made in-house?
Otherwise, I usually walk in with the assumption that my meal will be pleasant and I try not to let my involvement in the industry corrupt my experience!
Is there anything you absolutely hate cooking?
I hate chopping rosemary! As for cooking, I guess tripe. It has a terrible smell the first three times it is blanched.
If one chef from history could prepare one dish for you, who would it be and what would the dish be?
Andrew Carmellini's Uovo with White Truffles. I had it about 10 years ago and I want to have it again!
What do you consider to be your biggest success as a chef?
All of the cooks who have gone on to have success in other restaurants, especially the ones who started at BLT Fish straight out of school.
What do you consider to be your biggest failure as a chef?
I never volunteer my weaknesses. Let people figure that out for themselves!
What is the most transcendental dining experience you´ve ever had?
Le Cerf in Marlenheim, France. My friend worked there and I went to trail. The chef invited me to sit in the garden and sent a tasting menu. It was a beautiful fall day in Alsace and the food was sublime. There was a pasta dish using the broth from their Choucroute garnie and mushrooms from the local forager who had just picked them that morning. It was one of the best moments and meals of my life.
Are there any foods you will never eat?
Is there a story that, in your opinion, sums up how interesting the restaurant industry can be?
The other day a cook did not show up for work. The next day he called to tell me he wasn't able to call out because he was in jail. I was so happy that he had a good excuse and wasn't a "no call no show." I turned to the chef de cuisine and said only in this industry is a night in jail a perfectly legitimate reason for missing work.