I got a press packet from my friend Lee Jones of Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, on Lake Erie, about the chefs summit it had this summer at its Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, which is just a bit inland from Huron and pronounced MY-lun.
If you’ve had little tiny microgreens or obscure baby vegetables in a very high-end fine dining restaurant somewhere between Chicago and New York, the chances are pretty good that they're from Chef’s Garden — but only if you’re in a very high-end fine dining restaurant as Lee and his brother Bobby were getting up to $140 a pound for some of their herbs a couple of years ago. I have no idea what they get now.
Anyway, among the participants listed was:
“–Chef Paul Liebrandt, of his signature Restaurant Liebrandt, opening Fall 2007, New York City, panel member.”
Obviously, an investigation is underway.
[backgrounder below, as I noticed the above posting is myopic and New York-centric and this blog is for the world (!)]
The New York food world has been wondering what Paul Liebrandt has been up to since he and Gilt parted ways last year. Rumors have been rife that he was going to team up with Drew Nieporent (Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Mai House, Centrico et al), but I haven’t heard anything about that lately.
Mr. Liebrandt caused some culinary shockwaves here in the Big Apple some years ago at the restaurant Atlas, where dishes like fresh water eel with watermelon and cocoa-wine sauce thrilled then-New York Times critic William Grimes and thoroughly irritated Gourmet magazine, which gave it an uncharacteristically harsh review (at the time people cruelly speculated that Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, who was Mr. Grimes’ predecessor at the Times, was striking out at her replacement; that doesn’t ring true to me, but it is fun to repeat).
Mr. Liebrandt and the owners of Atlas had a falling out over something, and though the chef had some other gigs, they were nothing as grand as Atlas, until Gilt opened in late 2005 in the space that once was Le Cirque 2000. It was an important opening, as such things go. But either Mr. Liebrandt or his food didn’t get along well with management, and he was replaced by Christopher Lee, a native New Yorker who won accolades at Striped Bass in Philadelphia.
Mr. Liebrandt (he almost invariably calls me Mr. Thorn and it makes sense to maintain that protocol) hasn’t responded to my e-mail yet.
I did have a nice chat with Lee Jones, but I got no more information about the restaurant.