Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Slash the chicken to show the monkey*

November 27

Tales of my Thanksgiving weekend adventures and the Turkish food that followed will have to wait until I finish writing the feature I’m working on for our December 10 issue, but I did want to comment on Chris Cheung’s new job. The bright kids at Eater reported that he’s the new chef at Monkey Bar, and Chris just confirmed that to me (in fact, he's been there for six or seven weeks).
I wrote a profile of Chris, a protégé of Ed Brown and then of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, way back in 2000, when he was working on opening his first restaurant, Tiger Blossom, in the East Village. It failed to thrive and closed shortly after 9/11. So it goes. He resurfaced some time later at Little Bistro in Brooklyn, and then turned some heads as chef of Almond Flower Bistro, on the edge of Chinatown.
Now here’s the interesting thing: Patricia Yeo, the chef Chris is replacing at Monkey Bar, left, if I recall correctly, following bad reviews and a sense that the food she wanted to cook was a bit more radical than the Glaziers, who own Monkey Bar, wanted it to be, and perhaps more radical than their guests wanted to eat. That happens; sometimes a great chef is not a great fit with a particular restaurant. Chris knows that: He left Almond Flower over a disagreement with the owners there over his menu, which they deemed to be more radical than they wanted.
Obviously I wish all parties involved much good fortune and success.
Here’s another funny thing. When I interviewed Chris for that profile back in 2000, I did it over lunch at AZ, the restaurant where Patricia first was put on the map in New York (AZ has since closed; it was where BLT Fish is now).

*This is a term used in both Chinese and Thai cultures. It refers to when you punish one creature to frighten another one — to make an example of someone.

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