Industry Insiders: Julie Farias, the General’s Butcher

As one of the many talented cuisiniers participating in Le Fooding D’Amour (September 25-26 at at New York’s P.S.1), Julie Farias knows a thing or two about a good cut of meat. The Texas-born chef—who recently moved from Brooklyn’s Beer Table to The General Greene—worked for Daniel Boulud for five years (at Café Boulud, db Bistro Moderne, and Daniel), but attributes much of her culinary know-how to her southern upbringing and family influence (her clan owns a tortilla factory inside a San Antonio meat market). Farias tells us about working in kitchens on both coasts and how Le Fooding is going to taste for New Yorkers. In her case, it’s going to taste like tacos made from 40 cow heads.

What influenced your move from Beer Table to The General Greene? Nicholas Morgenstern, the owner of The General Greene, and I met at Daniel when he was the pastry sous-chef there and I was working the soup station. We worked together at 5Ninth. There, I was the opening sous and he was the pastry chef, and then we also worked together at Resto. I’ve known him for a really long time, and before last year, I was living and working in Los Angeles and Las Vegas on a project for the Palazzo. Nick came out to see me and asked me to come to his new restaurant, The General Greene, and I didn’t think anything of it. I said that I wasn’t in the position to leave. When I came back from Vegas, I moved to Beer Table. Owners Justin and Tricia Philips were friends of mine, and they needed a little help setting up the menu. They said, “We have this place, and there’s no kitchen, but we love your food and we think that this would work out.” And I loved the idea of it more than anything. Especially the spatial challenge. We had no kitchen at Beer Table. There was a convection oven, no dishwasher, no prep, no kitchen. When you take things away and you have bare essentials, it made me think about food in a different way. I always thought that fire was a bare essential but I realized that electricity is. I’m not as much of a Neanderthal as I thought I was. The timing was eventually right when Nicholas asked me again, and it just had to happen. He’s a fantastic partner.

What were you doing in Las Vegas? I was working for a gentleman named Jonathan Morr. He owns Republic and Bond St. We opened an Asian noodle restaurant called Mainland at the Palazzo Hotel and Casino. I created the menu, and I was also Jonathan’s consulting chef. I traveled from New York to Miami to Los Angeles to Vegas. I did consulting work for Thompson Hotels out there, creating their room service menu. I also lived and worked at Hotel Oceana in Santa Monica. I had no home for a year.

What was it like building the menu at The General Greene? I’m going to give a metaphor: me being here right now is, in some ways, like cutting in on a dancer. I’m about to dance with the pretty girl, so I’m cutting in and I have to keep up the pace for whatever waltz or jitterbug or lindy-hop they’re doing. There’s already a rhythm here; it’s a successful restaurant. Nick has asked me to work on organization, on execution, kitchen techniques, things like that, and keep up on the quality of products. It was a very big change to go from one burner to a stove and a downstairs and four to five cooks and a dishwasher.

What should we order on our first visit? We have bar snacks, and my favorite one right now is the bacon dates—dates wrapped in bacon and cooked in maple syrup. After that, you’d have to try the butter lettuce with a lemon vinaigrette, curried almonds and ruby-red grapefruit. I’m a big fan of ruby-red grapefruit. For me, they are a little sweeter, a better color, and before, we were using regular grapefruit on this dish. I also put collared greens on the menu, and these you have to try. They’re sautéed with garlic, red pepper chilies, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You have to try the chuck flap steak from Niman Ranch. It’s something known as a bavette, and it’s a tough kind of meat meant to be cooked medium rare. We grill it then slice it thin, and we serve it with a roasted garlic sauce with olive oil and Portuguese sea salt. It’s got a really hearty flavor. Then, you have to finish it off with a salty caramel sundae. It’s a hot caramel cake with salted caramel ice cream, whipped cream, caramel sauce, and then crushed, salted mini pretzels on top of it. It’s out of this world. You may have to stop by Nick’s Greene Ice Cream Cart as well.

How did you get involved with Le Fooding? It turns out, [Le Fooding founder] Alexandre Cammas lives in the neighborhood. His wife, Natalie, had actually had dinner at Beer Table, and so there was sort of a little match-making there, and they contacted me and came down to The General Greene.

What will you prepare for the September Le Fooding D’Amour event? I’m doing tête de veau tacos or “veal head.” It’s traditional barbacoa from San Antonio, Texas. I’m doing this classic recipe here, and I think it makes sense with the idea of the picnic setting. I actually smoked one of the cow heads today. They’re kind of scary looking. I’m going to be smoking about 40 of them for the event. They’re really kind of magnificent with the eyes, the skull, and the teeth.

Will New Yorkers embrace the Le Fooding concept? New Yorkers are all about food. I came here from Texas to cook. I returned to New York from Vegas because I felt that there was more of a focus on and interest in food here—from grocery stores to cooking at home. In keeping with this mentality, to me, it just seems like Le Fooding is a very natural thing. People will be attracted to this, and Alex’s interest in graphic design is reflected in the style of the event. Why would New Yorkers not want to come? I think that Alex’s goal is definitely going to be fulfilled.

What are your favorite bars and restaurants? Because I’ve been working at The General Greene so much, I’ve been limiting my going out to Brooklyn. I love Five Leaves and Char No. 4. They do a lot of smoked meat, and I butcher there on Mondays. Defonte’s in Red Hook is a sandwich place, and oh my God, it’s super yummy. I love the Skybox at Daniel. For drinking, I’m kind of a liquor snob … but when I feel like being a bit more on the rowdy side, I go to the Palace Cafe in Greenpoint. Budweiser and Jack & Coke is about as sophisticated of a drink you’ll get there. All of these places are in keeping with the same mood.

Nicholas Morgenstern and Julie Farias photographed by Michael Harlan Turkell.

Le Fooding Takes Over NYC

The French are better than we simple Americans at many things (staying thin, being fashionable, appearing cultured), but most importantly, the French know their food. Alexandre Cammas took his inherent French penchant for dining to new heights when he founded the gastronomic movement, Le Fooding, in Paris almost a decade ago. On September 25th and 26th, Le Fooding invades New York for their first stateside appearance. Le Fooding d’Amour Paris-New York is centered upon 6 renowned chefs from New York and 6 from Paris cooking for charity (Action Against Hunger) at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. Tickets are inexpensive, the idea behind the event is monumental and with the talent in the cooking arena — Yves Camdeborde (Le Comptoir de la Relais), Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand), William Ledeuil (Ze Kitchen Galerie), Alberto Herraiz (Fogón), Stephane Jego (L’Ami Jean) and Christophe Pelé (La Bigarrade), plus David Chang (Momofuku), Julie Farias (General Greene), Daniel Boulud with Olivier Muller (db Bistro), Wylie Dufresne (wd-50), Sean Rembold (Marlow & Sons) Riad Nasr (Minetta Tavern) — it’s physically impossible for the food to be anything less than superb. Alex and his event coordinator, Zoé Reyners, give BlackBook a sneak peek.

What is Le Fooding, the movement? Zoé Reyners: It started 9 years ago in Paris while Alex was a food writer. He used the term fooding in an article to rhyme with fueling. It was unintentionally expressing what he felt about gastronomy at the time in France. Back then, it was a very regulated, very serious matter. Alex was fed up with this and wanted to inject some feeling into it. That’s why he ran with fooding. The idea was well-liked by the press and people started talking about that word. With a bunch of his food writer friends — who had the same feelings about food at the time — Alex decided to use this word “fooding” as a banner for what they were thinking. They held the first event with friends. It was a casual thing to do with new chefs, but the media attention surrounding the first event showed that this was something necessary, and something that people agreed with. Events were organized more often. The website was founded, a phone line, and an office were set up. Step by step it became a real company. There is now a team of 50 writers working for the annually distributed Le Fooding guide. The first completely independent issue was put out last year. Before that, it was as a supplement for larger magazines.

When you got started, what was the reaction of your target audience? Alexandre Cammas: The young French people responded very well and quickly to what we were doing, but it was more difficult to get attention from the old-school chefs and old-school food writers because Le Fooding was different and new. We weren’t just food writers … we started to be involved in concrete things. Normally food writers don’t take risks and straight criticize what’s good and not good. For the first time, we took some risks, and we organized events.

How do you decide on restaurants to review for the publication? Alex: The criteria to select a restaurant in our guide, or for our events, is after we have dinner, we ask ourselves if we want to come back to a restaurant. If so, that’s a good restaurant. You can explore this question, not only with three-star Michelin-guide restaurants, but you can ask the same question for pizza parlors, for bistros, for cafés.

Who are the people who explore this question? Alex: Naturally, it’s the people who are curious, who are open-minded to the taste of the time and to tastes of the time. If you’re straight-minded, if you just like one sort of cuisine, Le Fooding doesn’t much care for your type. We make the guides and the website for people who are curious, like we are.

Why did you choose to introduce this concept to New York? Zoé: The question people usually ask us is, “What’s new for New Yorkers because this spirit already exists here?” I think the event is actually very different from the kind of events organized in New York.

Alex: A guide is a guide, but we’re pairing our guide with the charity event. It’s quite different from TimeOut or from BlackBook.

Is advertising in the guide created in-house? Zoé: We don’t create the advertising, but we have graphic designers handling much of the advertising so that it’s not completely different from our illustrations, the text, or the spirit.

Alex: There’s definitely a spirit. The guide is funny, and you can just read it for pleasure. You aren’t supposed to just want to look in it for an address of a restaurant. For the events, it’s the same. We started in Paris with events. Therefore, we decided to come to New York and start with events too.

What do we need to know about the event? Alex: The event we produce in New York City will be very different from the events that you know surrounding food. It’ll be at P.S.1. We usually do our events in art centers. The spirit is linked to the idea that food is not only food. It can be about the atmosphere and the culture that surrounds it. Also, it’s not only star chefs that you have to pay lots to eat their food. We don’t come with the most famous chefs of France, but we come with the ones who are alive in Paris.

Zoé: I think people know them, but they aren’t the mythical chefs. They’re active, innovative, creative chefs.

Tell me about the graphic design aspect. Alex: We’ll create a collector’s menu. Each chef will be represented by one graphic designer. The chefs of Paris will be represented the best graphic designers of Paris; and the New York chefs will be represented by designers from New York. Some of the designers are: Ich & Kar, Change is Good, Gianpaolo Pagni, Helène Builly, Vanessa Verillon, Nicholas Blechman, Tim Tomkinson, Jan Wilker, Paul Sahre, Jeanne Verdoux, Christoph Niemann, Andre and So Me.

Will the chefs contribute any ideas to the design of the menu, or is it completely up to the designer? Zoé: The designers meet the chefs. They’ll taste their food. They try to understand their spirit, their way of being, their humor, and then they are inspired to create a design in which they are completely free to do whatever they want.

When will people start buying tickets? Alex: The other thing that is different is the price. It’s a price accessible for all the people who like food and who like this sort of party spirit, and not necessarily for the people who have a lot of money. They’re $30, alcohol not included.

And once inside? Zoé: Guests have the choice to go to 6 different chefs each night, and taste amazing food. It’s a huge meal for $30 and it’s a distinguished chef’s meal. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the venue will be open only to VIPs on the guest list and for around 200 people that will have $60 VIP tickets, with Veuve Clicquot champagne included. The VIP space will be open from 6 p.m. to 11:30, whereas the rest of the venue will be closed at 10 p.m. Besides approximately 100 tickets each night, all the tickets will be available on the 15th of September on the Le Fooding website. Before that day, some tickets will be available if you have a secret code. Alex: We’ll also have DJ’s spinning in the VIP area and in the general admission area, including Paul Sevigny and Kolkhoze from Le Baron in Paris.