Let’s Have A Bed-Stuy Love Affair

I live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is not a corner of Brooklyn generally known for a surplus of art institutions. I was pretty excited to hear about a fairly new alternative gallery, Bed-Stuy Love Affair, whose fourth exhibition, “Turnkey of Forever After,” opens tonight. I chatted with gallery mastermind Jared Madere about running a gallery out of his kitchen, plus his favorite Indian delivery spot in the neighborhood.

Can you tell me about the Bed-Stuy Love Affair space? Does it double as your home when it’s not open officially as a gallery?

A lot of the time when young artists in NY finally get to do a show at a commercial gallery or other institution they feel all this pressure to put their best foot forward in this corny way that’s really stunting in terms of giving them a chance to actually experiment. I wanted to have a space where artists could take risks and actually execute their ideas in as uncompromised a way as possible, even if that means having the freedom to do a total belly flop.

I live here too. The apartment has got a room with a bed and a TV, a room I use as a studio (and to play PlayStation/burn sage in), a bathroom where I take lot of bubble baths, and the biggest room, the kitchen, where we put on shows.

Where did the name come from?

The name for the space comes from a cocktail they served at the nearby restaurant Peaches. I think they might have actually taken it off the menu but it was really good while it lasted. Lots of peach schnapps.

This corner of Bed-Stuy – a bit far from Pratt, close to the edge of Bushwick – is a bit lacking in terms of nightlife and art institutions. That said, what are some of your favorite spots in the neighborhood?

I like Soul II Soul. There’s this place called India House that’s really good too that I always get delivery from, but one time I got my lamb saagwaala with a rack of staples in it… but it was cool because they comped a free meal for me and David Flaugher. The food is really good though, for real, you should try it.

Can you tell me a bit about what to expect from the group show opening tonight?

Jeffrey Joyal  is in the show, so there will probably be tons of hot girls here. There might be beer also, I’m not sure, I just went on unemployment and this rent is high so to tell you the truth might have maxed out that budget already and I don’t really drink so not really a lot of incentive there. All the art is really good though, way better than most of the shit you see around NYC.

New York neighborhoods change quickly, to say the least. What do you think Bed-Stuy will look like 5 years from now?

My downstairs neighbor who grew up in this house (the building used to be a home to single family before it was bought out and renovated), got kicked out by the landlord/management company/whatever so it could be renovated and rented for an exponentially higher price. He was so cool, built his own remote control planes (big ones, six-foot wingspans), DJed block parties in the neighborhood, had three awesome kids…they haven’t rented his old apartment out yet so I guess we’ll see what happens. Rent out here is getting nuts though, landlords are gutting these buildings and fitting them with all these goofy aspirational yuppie appliances/countertops/faucets/central air/whatever and then charging Manhattan rent so I guess there will be some new grocery stores with an organic/locavore slant and maybe some artisanal donut shops getting put in or something and people will just keep getting pushed further and further out, unless a tidal wave/meteor/plague knocks out lower Manhattan, crime shoots up, looting, people get scared, move away, and then everything can be cool and cheap again.

Before this impending crime and natural disaster apocalypse hits Bed-Stuy, visit Bed-Stuy Love Affair tonight for the opening of “Turnkey of Forever After.” 

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Get Down With 2013’s Michelin-Rated Restaurants

This week restaurants around the city celebrated the release of the 2013 Michelin Guide. One of the best features about this prestigious tome is their “good cuisine at reasonable price,” Bib Gourmand section. For the Bib Gourmand, they consider restaurant that offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. Here, they don’t offer stars, but getting mentioned in the guide is enough for many eateries. 

“I couldn’t be more excited about our mention in the Michelin guide,” said Speedy Romeo chef and co-owner Justin Bazdarich. “I really see the guide as an honest measure for a restaurant rating, so, it means a lot to me to gain their respect.”

Aside from Speedy Romeo, highlighted this year include Gran Electrica, Pok Pok, and Battersby, which was also voted one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetite magazine. It also appears to be the golden time for Bed-Stuy’s Do or Dine. Not only did chef and co-owner Justin Warner winFood Network Star a couple months ago, but the restaurant has their second notable mention in the Michelin Guide.

In Manhattan, notice went to August, Il Buco Aimentari & Vineria, and Danny Meyer’s Untitled. There were also quite a few Asian places in the guide including Family Recipe, Jin Ramen, Yunnan Kitchen, and Uncle Zhou in Queens. With the one-star awards, the Asian trend continued with Café China, Hakkasan, and Jungsik at the top of the list.

On the higher end of things, three Michelin stars went, unsurprisingly, to eateries including Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, and La Bernardin. There was one astounding twist; out of seven venues, one award went to a non-Manhattan restaurant: Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. See folks, Brooklyn is rising. Just wait until it’s all outer boroughs and ramen joints.

Do or Dine’s Justin Warner Wins ‘Food Network Star’

I’m not going to lie: I was rooting for Do or Dine’s Justin Warner the whole time during the run of the eighth season of Food Network Star. As a member of the nerdy Team Alton (Brown), Warner proved the perfect fit, and it was awesome watching him win over the judges, his teammates, and big name chefs like Paula Deen, who, though she choked on his soup, was so delighted by his persona and hair that she continually referred to him as Elvis.

Now, the wine-rapping chef has won. “I am honored and I am excited about turning things upside down,” he said in an interview on the Food Network. On the finale episode last night, they unveiled a large portrait of the winner, and as soon as Warner saw it, his eyes welled up and he covered his face. “I never thought I would be accepted by America,” he said on the show. Given the 4.6 million votes that came in, obviously he has.

Through the season, Warner’s point of view was “rebel with a culinary cause,” which will probably be the name of his show. But for the 27-year-old chef, the concept he illustrated for the judges wasn’t a gimmick; he had already been a culinary radical at his Brooklyn restaurant, Do or Dine. There he has created, along with his partners Luke Jackson, Perry Gargano, and fellow chef George McNeese, a world where steak tartar comes shaped like a cow, fish get fried whole, and nachos are actually dumplings coated in cheese and sour cream. The later, by the way, was the dish Warner demonstrated in front of a live crowd during one of the show’s competitions.

For obvious reasons, Warner can’t filter interviews at the moment, so we couldn’t find out what exactly he is thinking now that he has won. Something tells me he would say something along of the lines of whathe told us when the show first aired: “Being a Food Network Star means I get to make even more people happy. I like people to have a good time, and sometimes I’m good at it.”The first time I met Warner was when Do or Dine opened last summer, and, just as I was surprised the restaurant has become so successful, I was stunned when I found out Warner was going to be on a food show. In the end, both make sense. Do or Dine serves up an unpretentious food adventure eaters have been craving, in an area that has almost nothing beyond cheap Chinese food places; and Warner is always pushing both the restaurant and himself to new levels.

In his first post-winning interview with the Food Network, he said, “I realized I have a strong desire to teach people. I never knew that until I saw the reaction of fans in the audience and on Twitter. I say to myself, ‘Wow! They trust me with that?’ Because a year and a half ago, I didn’t even know how to cook. To now be an authority on these things, at least in some people’s eyes, it’s amazing and I’ll never forget that.”

I don’t expect viewers will quickly forget Warner either. So, until I can toast his victory proper, I say cook on young man, I can’t wait to see what mischief you will be getting into next. Neither can his partners. I got Luke Jackson on the phone and he said he is overjoyed Warner won. “It’s great to see someone you worked with in the trenches so long achieve some notoriety. We are very excited also to see what it means for Do or Dine.”

Do or Dine’s Justin Warner Does TV

A little over a year ago Justin Warner opened up Do or Dine, a funky restaurant in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn with some former Modern employees that focused on the concept of food and what could be done with flavors, textures, and presentation. Warner and partner George McNeesedreamed up interesting dishes like marshmallow fluff with wasabi on pork, deviled eggs with red wine-soaked octopus, or their famous foie gras and jelly doughnuts. Now, Warner is making his debut on the Food Network as part of Team Alton (Brown) in the show Food Network Star. The first episode aired last Sunday, and, spoiler alert—Warner was not eliminated. I caught up with him to dish the dirt, find out if it’s changed his restaurant, and got a little sneak peek at the rest of the show.

What made you decide to try out for Food Network Star?
As a waiter, I made sure my guests were happy. As a restaurateur, I made sure my guests, my employees, and my partners were happy. Being a Food Network Star means I get to make even more people happy. I like people to have a good time, and sometimes I’m good at it.

Were you surprised you got in?
Extremely. I’m very far from culinary perfect, and I’m also kind of weird looking. I think these imperfections work in my favor, generally, but in Brooklyn, not on national TV.

How do you think it will affect business at Do or Dine?
So far the mail lady and the fish guy have given me high fives.

After the first aired episode aired, has it?
A few congratulatory remarks from customers have been very nice and pleasant. I can’t talk about it, which is hard, but I want there to be as much suspense as possible. I always say suspense is the most important ingredient. The moment when a cloche is removed from a plate is sometimes more important than what’s under it.

Alton’s first assessment of you as a creative chef lacking the skill to execute your ideas is kind of a theme in the history and reviews of your restaurant. What do you think about that statement?
In the case of the restaurant, and hopefully the show, I get by with a little help from my friends. I think a deaf guy invented the phonograph, no?

Can you share the dish you made on the show that you dug the most?
You’ll know it when you see it. No bones about it.

Now that it’s done, would you do it again?
If competitive cooking was my job, I would do it. It’s a very satisfying stress. When it’s over, it feels like you are 50 pounds lighter. It’s kind of addictive actually, but I can’t stand to be away from my girlfriend for more than a day, so maybe not.

Anything we should get excited about on the show?
Martie Duncan.

Can you please perfect the crab cake croutons and serve them at Do or Dine?
Maybe. This dish was a riff on our Maryland Style Jellyfish salad, which we served last summer. But in general, I don’t prefer to dwell on my failures too much. In the words of Swizz Beats, “On to the next one.”