A Stage at Picholine NYC

On my recent trip to New York City I was privileged enough to do a two day stage at Picholine, Terrance Brennan’s take on fine dining located near Columbus Circle.  I tried to get stages at many restaurants for those two days and learned how hard it is to get in to these three and four star kitchens if one, you don’t really know anybody or two, you can only stage for two days.  I am not sure of the reaction I caused at Le Bernardin after I sent them about ten e-mails and ten faxes of my resume along with a cover letter telling them I would scale sardines all day for a chance to stand in their kitchen.  The only confirmation I received was a return e-mail like a week later saying that they aren’t hiring right now.  Do you think they were hinting that I have a better chance at pursuing being a funny man than standing in their kitchen??  We’ll never know.
After a entire morning of calling the kitchens of the city’s best restaurants finally I got a hold of Chef Carmine Digiovanni who said I was welcome to come stage and to just shoot him a e-mail closer to that date that I wanted to come by.  I had chosen to call Picholine because looking at the New York Michelin guide I saw that they had received two stars for two years consecutively, a honor that only about five restaurants have in New York.  I regret that I could not take any pictures but its’ just not appropriate when your only doing a two day stage.
The kitchen where service comes out of is really small,  “this should be interesting” was definitely one of my first thoughts.  Downstairs is the prep kitchen armed with about ten or twelve Mexicans prepping it out.  They run a seven man line at night; two garde manger, one hot app, a meat and meat entremet, and fish and fish entremet. Chef Carmine expo’s and garnishes all the plates.  The guy is awesome at tasting everything and sends a shit-ton of food back to be re-seasoned and re-plated.  If you’ve seen the food porn episode of No Reservations you can catch a glimpse of him with Terrance Brennan.  He’s the huge  Tony Baga donus’ looking dude, my first impression was that he should be running a night club in Staten Island not a great kitchen but he definitely backs it up with some serious talent.
The menu is huge with two twelve or sixteen course tasting menus, a regular three course prix fixe, an extensive bar menu with small plates, and at the time they were finishing up their winter game tasting menu featuring amazing wild hare and partridge that’s imported from Scotland.  They use a decent amount of molecular gastronomy in their food mostly using agar-agar , molto-dextrin, and lecithin to enhance their dishes.  I think Chef Carmine does an awesome job at only using for that, “enhancing” which I personally think should be the use for those techniques and chemicals.  They have some really winners on their menu,  the lamb with the flavors and textures of Morocco is a straight up bad ass dish.  Seared loin, braised pulled and pressed belly, and a breaded apricot cake, its served in a tagine with three different dots of sauces a preserved lemon sauce, a yogurt sauce, and harrisa.  The Chicken Kiev is awesome, it’s a split chicken breast stuffed with foie and truffle mouse thickened with agar its then rolled into a perfect cylinder and sous-vide, at pick up its rolled in crushed corn flakes and browned off.  At the table the waiter comes by with a sword and pierces the chicken so the stuffing runs out and sauces the whole plate.  Almost all of their dishes have something that is done tableside, which I am sure makes for some awesome service in the dining room.
The kitchen staff treated me awesome trying on both days to feed me some of their dishes which they are very proud of, often firing whole dishes for me to try.  Chef Carmine is running a tight ship with a good crew that definitely stands by him and performs without question.  If your in New York and you’ve got a shitload of money to spend on dinner I really suggest you stop by Picholine or at least by the bar for some small plates.  If your looking to spend a couple days in a new kitchen and learn some cool shit give Carmine a call, I’m sure he’ll be happy to have you in there.  Not to mention he and his staff really know how to treat a fellow cook and foodie!


1 Response to “A Stage at Picholine NYC”

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