[00:05:09] Josh Sharkey:
Yep. John really introduced you to Kunz and then you staged.
At Cafe Gray. We must have met although You know, I was a I must have been 23 24 at that time So I wasn't that much older than you were so we were both, you know out of our minds But so after you staged at Cafe Gray, yeah, that's when you then went to Daniel.
[00:05:29] Joey Sergentakis:
No Yeah. Yeah, then I went to Daniel Then I worked at Daniel. And then after working at Daniel, as I said, you know, I really wanted to go to Europe looking at all the three Michelin star restaurants in France and Switzerland and all that in Spain and stuff.
I'm thinking, where can I go? And I tried, you know, I wrote a bunch of emails and letters and stuff to different chefs.
[00:05:47] Josh Sharkey:
Was there one particular restaurant you really went to?
[00:05:52] Joey Sergentakis:
Not really. There's a bunch, there's a bunch and connected with Chef Gray. And he was like, you're interested in going to work with Rochat in Switzerland.
[00:06:00] Joey Sergentakis:
And I was like, yeah, you know, absolutely. Can you help me? So he called the team called Frank Giovinini. I don't know if you know Frank. At the time he was a sous chef there. Now he's actually running the restaurant, but he used to work at Lespinasse as well. So he called them and then I went there.
[00:06:15] Josh Sharkey:
So the first place you went overseas was for Philippe Rochat. Yeah, for Philippe Rochat. And they came over to work to do, like, collab with us at Cafe Gray. I had just left at that time.
[00:06:27] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh really? Yeah, that was way before I went out there, but um, but yeah, I heard a lot of stories about it. So a lot of photos. It was really cool.
[00:06:34] Josh Sharkey:
What was it like working for Rochat?
[00:06:35] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh, it was incredible. Incredible. I mean, you know, it was such a unique experience for me. You know, that restaurant. It was very unique, it was very true to the classics, and I learned a lot about, a lot of different techniques, and same thing with Daniel, you know.
[00:06:50] Josh Sharkey: What town?
[00:06:52] Joey Sergentakis:
Crissier. In Crissier. So it's like, maybe 30, 30, 40 minutes from Geneva. Yep. You know. It was an incredible experience. I mean. In that team, with that brigade, and actually when I went there, and when I went there, it was the old kitchen.
[00:07:05] Josh Sharkey:
kitchen. It's crazy how many chefs came through for Giroudet too. I know, I know. It's funny, that's how I first, not how I first learned about Kunz, but I was working at Boulet before I went to work for Kunz.
He also worked for Giroudet. Oh, I didn't know that. At least that's what he was told. But I'm pretty sure I saw a picture of both of them, so I'm pretty sure he did. And I mean, you know, it's funny because you look at All the chefs that came through Girardet, and then same thing with Kunz. You know, so many incredible chefs.
I know. Carmellini, and Rocco, and Floyd, I mean just so many. I know. Like, they just produce great chefs. I know. Did you travel a lot around Switzerland when you were there?
[00:07:45] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, sort of. I mean, so I was there for three months. The plan for me was three months stage and then go back to America. Packed up for three months.
While I was out there, you know, I kept in touch with Chef Gray. He was, you know, checked in on me a few times. And one day he calls me. He's like, do you want to come to Hong Kong? I'm opening a restaurant in Hong Kong. I was like, sure. You know, 25. I came. I left America to get experience. My better experience is to go to Hong Kong with Chef Gray and open up a restaurant.
So... I accepted it, you know, the role and, and then there was a bit of a delay in the process. So after three months, I went to France. So a friend of mine, my friend Wilford, who he and I worked together, Daniel, he was the chef at a restaurant called La Bastide de Moustiers, it's a Ducasse
restaurant in the south of France.
And I was like, Wilford, you know, I got some time. So I spent a few months there with him as well. So that was a great experience. Yeah, it's a beautiful restaurant in the middle of a mountain in the south of France. I mean, every day they change the menu. The menu is very small, about three or four courses. And it was incredible.
[00:08:56] Josh Sharkey:
Anything that like really comes to mind that you saw or made or like,
[00:08:59] Joey Sergentakis:
I mean, for me, I, it was, you know, it was, It was mind blowing, you know, I was a young kid with aspirations to be a chef and then all of a sudden I find myself in the middle of Provence. You know, going to work, like walking down the street and it's like, yeah, rosemary on, you know, it's really, you're in, you know, you're in something really special, you know?
And I knew that. And, you know, you go to the restaurant and they had this huge wood fire oven that like, you know, they're roasting chicken and it's just very, very classic and done right, you know?
[00:09:31] Josh Sharkey:
You know, was there like a. Was there a moment that I'm curious if you had like a moment when you realized oh, yeah I want to be a chef and
[00:09:40] Joey Sergentakis:
Well big inspiration for me was meeting John Rella yeah, so that was during a period of time when I was in culinary school and You know, I was I wanted to be a chef And my cousin, you know, at the time they were dating, you know, meets this chef who was, you know, worked for Chef Gray Kunz, he was in New York City, doing some fantastic things.
[00:10:01] Josh Sharkey:
We're in a restaurant, so in case any of this doesn't get edited, it's because back and forth the cooks are doing their job and listening to music. But we were just talking about like, what inspired you to start cooking. Yeah. I think about like, you know, I went to culinary school. I don't think I actually...
It, like, clicked yet, like, oh yeah, I wanna go work in Incredible Kitchens. It wasn't until, like, I went to this, I started working at this Michelin star restaurant in Norway, and just, like, I still remember, like, two or three things that I was like, holy shit, yeah, this is what I wanted for Christmas. Like, I remember, like, confit fennel and then caramelizing it on a, you know, on a plancha, and, like, this, like, celery puree, and then, like, getting whole scallops in, and I was like, I still, to this day, remember these things that we did.
That are like the reason why I was like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Although now I'm doing something else. But was there any like, like food or dishes or things that you saw like that, that like sparked it?
[00:10:56] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, I think, you know, John Rallo, who I mentioned before was a big inspiration for me. You know, when I, when I was in culinary school. So my cousin, you know, started dating him. He was the chef, uh, the yacht club, uh, sorry, sorry, the union club at the time. And he was running this, you know, incredible, incredible outlet, doing really great things. And, you know, meeting him and talking to him was really inspiring, you know, really inspiring for me.
[00:11:19] Joey Sergentakis:
Like he was telling me stories about that Lespinasse and, you know, getting, you know, putting a lot of perspective on. what he does every day. And I was like, very intrigued by all of that. So I started to dig in a little bit further, you know, getting into, you know, cookbooks and, you know, all these different, uh, chefs in New York city and learning about.
Letters to a Young Chef from, you know, Daniel Boulud and reading all these different books. I read The Fourth Star, which was a story about that, you know, working in the kitchen at Daniel. Yeah. And, you know, I, I really submerged myself into it. You know, my family was always in hospitality. My father was a chef, he's Greek, so he was a chef at a diner, obviously, you know, that's what they do.
[00:12:02] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah I mean, if you're not a chef. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:12:04] Joey Sergentakis:
He was working in diners. My mom was a waitress. That's kind of how they met each other. Yeah. Yeah. And then he had a produce business, so growing up, my first job was in a restaurant, and then I've never worked anything outside of restaurants, diners, pizzerias, and stuff like that.
[00:12:20] Josh Sharkey:
That's crazy. Yeah, so I started very young. Did he, so was that diner like, was it like a Greek diner?
[00:12:24] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, it was um, it was a very famous one. Del'rio Diner and Vegas Diner in Brooklyn. Wow. Yeah, so that's, yeah, that's what my father did. He was living, he lived in Greece, he moved to America.
[00:12:36] Josh Sharkey:
What part of Greece?
[00:12:39] Joey Sergentakis:
[00:12:38] Josh Sharkey:
Have you spent time in Greece?
[00:12:39] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh yeah, in Crete. Nice. It's beautiful. Yeah, it's incredible.
[00:12:45] Josh Sharkey:
So then you ended up in Hong Kong, and then Singapore, which we're going to talk about, but like, what's it like living there? I mean, you know, independent of like cooking, like what was it like living in
[00:12:54] Joey Sergentakis:
It was insane, man. It was amazing. I mean, I loved it. I remember arriving in Hong Kong with, first of all, like, as I mentioned, I was supposed to spend three months in Switzerland and then go back to America, so I came with suitcases of like winter clothes. And I got to Hong Kong and it was like super hot. What the fuck am I gonna do?
It was just such a, um, such a great experience for me. I had no idea what I was gonna expect. I had no idea. I didn't know anything about Hong Kong, really. Did you,
[00:13:21] Josh Sharkey: how long were you there for?
[00:13:22] Joey Sergentakis: In total, seven years.
[00:13:24] Josh Sharkey:
What did you do on your time off?
[00:13:25] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh, I mean, you know, I met a lot of friends. It was an inspiring spot because when I got there working with Chef Gray, he had a very open mind towards ingredients and products from different areas, especially being in Hong Kong.
Yeah. So we embraced that a lot. You know, and I just wanted to continue to further my knowledge on Asian cuisine. So being out there, you know, I would go to restaurants and go to the market and buy ingredients that I had no idea what I was doing with. I would talk to the lady in the market that I was buying it from and say, what do you do with it?
[00:13:58] Josh Sharkey:
Were you learning the language?
[00:14:00] Joey Sergentakis:
Learned a lot. Yeah. Yeah, I'm very good. I'm very good with like, kitchen Cantonese. You know, I can count, I can, you know, talk, and like, you know, but.
[00:14:08] Josh Sharkey:
And can you like, communicate at the markets as well? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's awesome. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was good with that. So what, any like, particular cultural things that you remember that are just super different from living here?
[00:14:19] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. I mean, in the beginning it was a cultural shock, but eventually I was very comfortable. What were some of the shocks? Like what the things, I mean, you know, being just arriving in Hong Kong, the, the, you never see anything like it. All the buildings are really close. It felt like everything's on top of you.
There's a lot of people in the street, you know, the, the ingredients, the language, the culture, the way people talk to each other. In the beginning it's almost like, you know, it's like people coming to New York. It's very aggressive. Yeah. But once you. Understand, like New Yorkers, and you understand people in Hong Kong, you're like, wow, this is amazing.
And I have so many close friends, even to today, I talk to every day, that are, you know, living in Hong Kong and checking on, you know, seeing what they're doing and everything, but When I was, uh, in Asia in general, I had a lot of experiences in different cultures that to this day is just, it's like, I went from Hong Kong to Singapore to, uh, you know, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, which I'm kind of fast forwarding a little bit towards the end of, you know, my, my experience in Asia, but each country I've been to, um, You know, each country, like, had their own kind of culture and type of people.
[00:15:30] Josh Sharkey:
You know, I think one thing I was curious about is, like, the kitchens in those countries, you know, and I don't know how much of, like, the political system has an influence or just socio economical, but, like, is the culture in working in those kitchens? different from the culture in the States?
[00:15:45] Joey Sergentakis:
[00:15:48] Josh Sharkey:
Like what's different about it?
[00:15:50] Joey Sergentakis:
I mean, it's hard to say, you know, I think each restaurant, no matter which country you're in, you always have, you know, those people that are just there for the money. Yeah. And you always have those people that are really, that are, that have this like love and drive to be a better chef and to learn and everything.
[00:16:05] Joey Sergentakis:
And that's one thing you'll find in every... country in the world, I feel like, you know what I mean? You kind of have to wave, you know, wave your way through, you know.
[00:16:13] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, you get the mix of the missionaries and the people that actually work. It's always, it's always part of it, you know. Is there a big, like, culinary scene of like, people like, you know, like, bouncing ideas off each other in Hong Kong?
[00:16:24] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the areas where I went to and where I was working were like, you know, some of the biggest cities. Yeah, so you're always gonna have lots of competition and you're always gonna have a lot of talent there, you know So there was a great community in each one of these locations, especially in Hong Kong Yeah, I mean Hong Kong when I first got there, it was not what it is today, you know There was a handful of great restaurants Now it's a city full of great restaurants.
So, you know, I was there through that entire transition where there was like, you know, there was no, you know, there weren't those, there was the hotel restaurants. Now there's restaurants on the streets. It's independent restaurants, you know. So.
[00:17:04] Josh Sharkey:
Is it primarily like people from outside of China that are opening restaurants and?
[00:17:12] Joey Sergentakis:
Um I guess the Western restaurants, yes, but you have some incredible, like, Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong that are run by local Cantonese chefs and, and those are incredible and those are some of the best restaurants in that city as well. Yeah. You know, but then you have, you know, chefs from Europe, countries like Hong Kong and Singapore and they set up restaurants. Incredible restaurants.
[00:17:33] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. Yeah. In Hong Kong, you were at what was called Cafe Gray Deluxe. Yep. Which was, I was always curious that I asked Gray a number of times. He didn't really have a good answer for it because we had Cafe Gray and the menu was pretty, you know, similar. Yeah. A lot of it was in the opening for sure.
But I mean, it seems like it was just an extension of Cafe Gray, but was it, was the idea for it to be more high end than the one in New York?
[00:17:57] Joey Sergentakis:
I don't think so. I don't think so. That was definitely not, that was definitely nothing that was ever discussed. I mean, It was, you know, Cafe Gray, but in Hong Kong, the only thing I would say would probably be different and I've only done stages at Cafe Gray in New York, but I think it was probably, I wouldn't say it's more Asian, but we're utilizing a lot of local products.
Yeah. So it's naturally, you know, we're using ingredients, Yau Mak Choi Choy and different types of What's that? Yau Mak Choi Choy. It's like, uh, It's a type of lettuce.
[00:18:27] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I figured it was like some sort of choy.
[00:18:28] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, it looks like romaine lettuce, but a little bit different. A little more green, you know, no white in the middle, kind of like how romaine is.
[00:18:37] Joey Sergentakis:
Or yellow. And it's got a, uh, and you saute it.
[00:18:40] Josh Sharkey:
Oh yes, you cook it.
[00:18:41] Joey Sergentakis:
You cook it. It's amazing. So it's probably one of my favorites.
[00:18:44] Josh Sharkey:
It’s funny because I love grilled romaine better than, you know, than cooked, than just raw romaine anyways. You had a little class. Did you guys have like the truffle soup or the truffle bouillon?
Of course. Nobody does. I know. No one does truffles like Kunz. I know. No one. I say all the time, I don't know if it's controversial, but there's not a chef, there's not one restaurant I ever have been at ever. And you know, I've been to all the three star Michelin and four star New York. Nobody does it like Kunz.
I know, I know. The way that he, I mean, it's really just the preserving of those black truffles. I know. You know, like port, Madeira, salt, and, but like, when he preserves those truffles, that juice is like, I know. It's like fucking gold.
[00:19:22] Joey Sergentakis:
There is one other restaurant. Oh, really? Which I found out about. Rochat.
[00:19:24] Josh Sharkey:
Well, he probably learned it from there. I would imagine like if you go, yeah, I never ate at Rochat. I never like ate Gérardet's Sprap. I mean, I imagine probably that, I mean, he probably got it.
[00:19:39] Joey Sergentakis:
It was incredible for me to see the, the parallel between the two restaurants because. It was obviously a lot of inspiration that Chef Gray got from Girardet.
It was interesting because they cooked, like, similar, obviously, because he worked with him. Yeah. Going back to Chef Gray's history, after Girardet, he went to Hong Kong and then went to New York. So you kind of saw a lot of that Asian, um, you know, Cantonese influence into the cuisine that he did at Esplanade.
[00:20:05] Joey Sergentakis:
That was the difference, I think, in, in the genre.
[00:20:08] Josh Sharkey:
But it's, you know, like, everywhere you eat. Other than maybe, you know, Rochat and maybe there's other places, but like something you just put on top of it afterwards, you know, like you shave white truffle, you shave black truffle, maybe you saute the truffle, maybe you like stuff it with something, but it's, you know, when he like crashes, you know, the basic premise for anybody that like, that hasn't, you know, eaten or, or for Kunz is, you know, these preserved truffles, typically you dice them, um, saute them.
[00:20:35] Josh Sharkey:
Little shallots crash, some chicken stock. Yeah. Crash pork crash, Madeira. Yeah. Maybe a little cream reveal stock. Yeah. That like crashing of that. Yeah. Every time with the, and then finishing with Yeah. You know, with the, with the truffle juices, like it's, the dish is truffle. Yeah. Instead of like the dish, something else with truffle on top, the dish is truffle.
[00:20:53] Josh Sharkey:
That's good. I mean, having literally, it's like the truffle soup, you know? Yeah. It's got purple hue to it. Yep. Yeah. You just, I just, there's nowhere else that really. Does it that way? I tend to like, Chef Wiley came to our, uh, team summit that we did last year. We do a team summit for meez every year and Wiley did like this talk.
We did like a little fireside chat. I gave him, you know, a couple gifts and one was just a jar of preserved truffles. I was like, put this on the pizza, man. Anyway, so you worked for Kunz for seven years in Hong Kong. And then how did you end up in Singapore?
[00:21:24] Joey Sergentakis:
After working with him at Cafe Gray, actually I opened up a restaurant called Mr. and Mrs. Fox in Hong Kong. As well, with the same company, Swire. Oh, really? So, yeah, yeah. So, Swire, they're the company that opened up the Upper House Hotel in Hong Kong, which brought me out to, um, to Hong Kong in the first place with Chef Gray. You know, after working with him for a while, it's like, you know, I wanted to do something.
I wanted to do a restaurant of my own, kind of. They, you know, they invited me to open a restaurant with them. So I opened this restaurant. It was great. Mr. and Mrs. Fox. It was in, um, Quarry Bay in Hong Kong. Did really well. 12,000 square foot kind of steakhouse. Yeah, it was huge. Three floors. You know, we won a lot of accolades, did really well.
And then with that, I kind of took a role overseeing a few projects that Swire did. One was in Miami. I opened up Sugar, which is on the rooftop of East Hotel. And I oversaw another restaurant that they had called The Continental, which was kind of this like, grand cafe, like, really interesting restaurant. It was like an all day...
[00:22:27] Josh Sharkey:
Did you live in Miami? Or did you stay there temporarily? Stay there temporarily, yeah.
[00:22:32] Joey Sergentakis:
So, do you have kids by that point? Yes. Well, one. Yeah. No, two. Two were born in Hong Kong. Yeah.
[00:22:39] Josh Sharkey:
So your kids are technically, wow, like, do they have dual nationality?
[00:22:44] Joey Sergentakis: Uh, no. They don't. They don't. Well, no, sorry. They do through Indonesia. My wife is Indonesian.
[00:22:50] Josh Sharkey:
Gotcha. Yeah. So your kids are... Indonesian American. They have Chinese and Indonesian passports or Chinese and American?
[00:22:56] Joey Sergentakis:
Indonesian American. So I think for Hong Kong, you gotta live there for seven years. before you can get like,
[00:23:02] Josh Sharkey:
uh, Interesting. Yeah. Even if you're born there.
[00:23:05] Joey Sergentakis:
I think so. I think we're like,
[00:23:07] Josh Sharkey:
You know, Okay. Anyway. So, so you were in Miami for a bit and then helping Swire open up a bunch of spots. How long was that for?
[00:23:14] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. I worked with them. That entire time was, you know, seven, seven years in total. Oh, gotcha. So it's not, it wasn't Cafe Gray for seven years. Got it.
[00:23:20] Josh Sharkey:
For you with the Swire group.
[00:23:21] Joey Sergentakis:
It was Swire group for seven years. I did, I did skip a little part here. I did go back to, after about two and a half, three years of Cafe Gray, I did go back to work with Rochat They were doing a transition of the restaurant, Benoît Violier was taking over, this is around 2012.
[00:23:37] Joey Sergentakis:
I went in, I was actually, went to be the sous chef at the restaurant and I had issues with my visa, I wasn't able to get it. I was at a point where I wasn't sure if I was going to just continue trying to get this visa and, uh, you know, I was always, I was in great contact with, uh, Chef Gray, who's like, listen, um, You know, we're looking to potentially do another restaurant, you know, would you be interested in coming back?
[00:23:59] Joey Sergentakis:
So that's what kind of brought me back to Hong Kong.
[00:24:01] Josh Sharkey:
Gotcha. Yeah. Cool. And then, and then eventually you ended up in Singapore. How did that happen? Hmm.
[00:24:07] Joey Sergentakis:
So all in all, this was around 2017. And I was planning on moving back to America. It was a long time out of home. And at that time I had two children and I was thinking it might be a good time to move back to America.
[00:24:22] Joey Sergentakis:
And I got a call from one of the guys in C'est La Vie Singapore, and he's like, you know, we're looking for a chef. You know, I looked it up, I'm like, at that point I've never been to C'est La Vie, I knew about it, but I never, you know, didn't really know. So I went out there, spent a few days, met with the team over there, and I was like, okay. Yeah. I can't say no to this.
[00:24:44] Josh Sharkey:
So maybe just give a little, like, little 50,000 foot overview. What is C'est La Vie?
[00:24:49] Joey Sergentakis:
All right. So. It was a really good fit for me because it is a high end Asian restaurant, kind of eclectic Asian. It wasn't straight Asian, you know. C'est La Vie Singapore is located on the top floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, right at the edge of that boat.
It's a beautiful restaurant with an incredible view. It's big. It does, you know, quite a lot of covers per night. So, you know, for me, it was going to be a challenge from, uh, being able to execute high end food. Doing the type of numbers that they were doing in that location. I thought it was an incredible challenge for me.
I love the fact that it was Asian because being there for so long, I really geared myself towards Asian food. I love it. I love cooking Asian food. While I was working at Cafe Gray and then these other, these other restaurants, on my days off, I spent a lot of time doing stages. You know, I went to work with David Thompson and at NAM in Bangkok, I went to Japan, uh, I went to, um, Vietnam, worked sometime with Michael Bao, I don't know if you know Michael Bao from New York. Do you know? Michael Bao used to work in New York.
[00:25:56] Josh Sharkey: Where in Vietnam are you?
[00:25:59] Joey Sergentakis:
Uh, Nha Trang. Okay, cool. I, every single time I got a chance to have a few days off, I would go to Thailand, I would go to, you know, all these different locations. Yeah. Just to gain knowledge on, on, on different Asian food. Yeah. And I felt like.
[00:26:11] Joey Sergentakis:
The whole time I was there, I was thinking, uh, I don't know how long I'm gonna be here. I'm gonna suck it up as much as I can. I'm gonna learn as much as I can about Thai food, about Vietnamese food, about, you know, all these different cuisines. And then I started to incorporate it into the food at Cafe Gray.
And Chef Gray was open to it. Of course, yeah. He's like, what do you got there? And he's like, You know, he used to make fun of me. He's like, what do you got? Pundang. What the fuck is a pundang? And I was like, Oh, chef, trust me. It's going to make it really crispy. And I don't know if anybody knows what that is.
But I remember he used to always like fuck with me with that. He's like, what are you doing with this? All right. Just let me see. What did you do with it? Yeah, it's a good name. It's a good name. Um, probably I'm saying it wrong, but it's like this like limestone that you put it in, in a jar, you fill up with water and you use that water on top. Uh, so it helps with making things crispy. Yeah.
[00:27:02] Josh Sharkey:
And what, like in batters or?
[00:27:06] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, in batters. Yeah. You know? Yeah. So there's just, I learned a lot of little techniques that. people weren't doing with Western cooking.
[00:27:11] Josh Sharkey:
I'm just imagining Kunz.
[00:27:15] Joey Sergentakis:
I would come back from being in Thailand for three days with a bunch of ingredients and he'd be like, What the fuck are you doing?
[00:27:23] Josh Sharkey:
That's awesome. So, the only thing I remember hearing about C'est La Vie was that they have this, like, the most expensive tasting menu in the world.
[00:27:32] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh, that was before I went there. They had an event where it was like, I think they sold the dinner for a million dollars. You had to take a helicopter and then
[00:27:40] Josh Sharkey:
I don't know. Yeah, it was like, it was like, I think it was two million dollars. Maybe you're right. Actually, it was two million dollars. They would fly you there and they would put you up and it was just, you know, like the whole menu was, was, uh. Like, uh, yeah, some, I don't know, some experience, but it was like 2 million.
[00:27:55] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. That's a 2 million meal.
[00:27:58] Josh Sharkey:
This podcast is brought to you by meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. As a chef and restaurant owner for the past 20 years, I was frustrated that the only technology that we had in the kitchen was financial or inventory software. Those are important, but they don't address the actual process of cooking, training, collaboration, and consistent execution.
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[00:28:33] Josh Sharkey:
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[00:28:48] Joey Sergentakis:
I mean, that location is, there's, I don't, I can't think of a better location in Asia or the world like, I mean, it's beautiful and when you're up there. At C'est La Vie and you look outside. I mean, you see this, it's incredible. You see the, the, the Yuen Long and then, you know, the, the F one, the F one track is, you know, right in front of the building.
I mean, it's such an iconic location. It really is. I ended up being the group executive chef for the company. There's a couple C'est La Vie, there's a bunch, and I opened a lot of them when I arrived. They had Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Central Pay. During my tenure there, I opened, um, Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Tokyo, Dubai, Shanghai, I think that's it, there's quite a lot.
[00:29:38] Josh Sharkey:
That's nuts. What's the company behind it?
[00:29:39] Joey Sergentakis:
L Catterton now. Used to be LVMH. Oh wow, L Catterton Bar? Yeah, but it was LVMH when I started. Wow. Yeah.
[00:29:46] Josh Sharkey:
I didn't realize L Catterton got into overseas since. Yeah. I mean, Singapore must have been such good food.
[00:29:51] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh, yeah. What a, what a great city.
[00:29:53] Josh Sharkey:
Any, any, like, memorable meals there?
[00:29:56] Josh Sharkey:
We could go on for another hour telling you about like, I've never been to Singapore.
[00:30:01] Joey Sergentakis:
So, I'll tell you a little bit about, like, I mean, what's really cool about Singapore, especially during that time, like, I had, so, I had a third child. Yeah. And in Singapore. So two were born in Hong Kong and at that time there were probably like four, something like that, four or five.
And then one was born in Singapore. It was just such a great, great lifestyle. I had a, um, I had an apartment that was pretty close to the restaurant. So every day to go to work, I would take my bike or my scooter or along the Kalang river on this, the track that. You know, people, the F1 track, you know, going into work and, uh, there's, you know, hawker stands all over the place, you know, all over Singapore.
So I would take my, my son if I was, you know, early in the morning, you know, go get kaya toast and, you know, some kaya toast. Oh man. That was another thing that I used to do with Chef Gray as well. He loves kaya toast. Kaya is a coconut. Spread. Okay. It's a coconut spread. Like, you know, we have peanut butter.
[00:30:56] Joey Sergentakis:
They have a kaya. It's a coconut spread.
[00:30:58] Josh Sharkey:
Is it just coconut or is it seasoned with things?
[00:31:01] Joey Sergentakis:
Uh, yeah. It's sweet. It's like a sweet with pandan, you know, sometimes. You know, there's different types of kaya, but normally it's, you know, it's pandan and coconut. And when you eat it, the way it's like traditionally served is like grilled bread with kaya and butter.
[00:31:15] Josh Sharkey:
Sounds so good.
[00:31:16] Joey Sergentakis:
All right. And then you dip it in, um, uh, like a half cooked egg. It's very like, pretty much raw, but it's not raw. It's just like cooked for a few minutes and then let it sit. So when you crack it, it still has the white around the outside of the yolk, but it's raw. You crack right into it and it's raw.
[00:31:35] Joey Sergentakis:
And you, you serve it with, um, dark soy sauce.
[00:31:38] Josh Sharkey:
Wow, so it's sweet, so the thing, the spread is sweet, but everything else is savory.
[00:31:43] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, it's salty. So it's served with like, um, you put a little dark soy sauce inside and a little, um, white pepper. Uh huh. And you take the kaya, dip it inside.
[00:31:50] Josh Sharkey:
That sounds so good. Yeah. Can you get kaya here?
[00:31:52] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, yeah, you can, yeah, I'm sure you can probably get good quality kaya, like from a jar. Yeah. Yeah, for sure, especially in New York. Yeah. But good kaya toast, no, I haven't had it anywhere here. What kind of bread do you use? like this, it's almost like a white bread. It's a white bread, but not really. I don't know how to explain it. It's, uh, but they toast it over charcoal. Like, if you get a good one,
[00:32:16] Josh Sharkey:
they toast it over charcoal. Like a meaty pan kind of thing? Huh? Like a meaty pan, or like a, or like a... Yeah. Kind of. Homemade or something? Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But soft? Is it like a soft bread? Soft, but it's grilled.
[00:32:25] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. So it's a little crispy. And then you just dip it inside, and then you eat it, and then Kopi Susu, or, you know, uh, Kopi O, Kopi C, these are all things that you probably wouldn't know unless you lived in Singapore, or, or in Asia, or those areas, so like, coffee culture over there is incredible as well, like the local coffee, I love it, you know, like, uh, Kopi is coffee, and then like, Coppicea and all these things are like how you want your coffee served.
So if you're like here, you say like light and sweet or something like that. Yeah. It's the same thing, but in different.
[00:32:57] Josh Sharkey:
Gotcha. Yeah. Is it similar to like Southeast Asia where you have, um, you know, like sweetened condensed milk and things like that? Yeah, exactly. That's cool. I love the Vietnamese coffee. I love it. It's almost like pour you know, like, like pour over. Yeah. Yeah. You had to have a lot of chili crab. Oh yeah, of course.
[00:33:15] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. Chili crab and stingray, barbecue stingray, I mean. Oh, that sounds good. Chicken feed, I mean, all that stuff. I love it. Love it, you know.
[00:33:23] Josh Sharkey:
So when are you gonna open a Singapore restaurant?
[00:33:25] Joey Sergentakis:
I would love to do that. I mean, I... It's funny because I'm doing, you know, Italian food here. Yeah.
[00:33:32] Josh Sharkey:
Um, we'll talk about that. I promise.
[00:33:33] Joey Sergentakis:
I know But like the funny thing is is about like my career in my entire path. It's just been like start off really heavily French Yeah, I am Italian in my background Greek and Italian. Yeah, so Italian food is kind of yeah It's been part of my life.
[00:33:45] Josh Sharkey:
You're just like a mutt man.
[00:33:48] Joey Sergentakis:
I'm a mutt. I know you're Greek and my kids are Greek Italian and
[00:33:51] Josh Sharkey:
Greek and Italian with an Indonesian wife and yeah lived all over Asia and France.
[00:33:57] Joey Sergentakis:
I know it's funny That's funny how that happens.
[00:33:59] Josh Sharkey:
So, I mean, like, do you think you'll do some sort of Southeast Asian or Singapore? You have to, right? That's like, that's my thing. Once you get, once those flavors, like, get in you, like, it's just... Oh, I love it. I mean, I always have... In my freezer, makrut, which I think you can't say kaffir lime anymore, but, um, Why can't you say kaffir lime? So, Andrew Friedman, if you're listening, um, so apparently, and I did read a little bit about this, so I want to make sure I'm sensitive to it, but kaffir is a, is a derogatory term used, the derivative is from, is from South Africa, but apparently the kaffir is actually a derogatory term for the people.
Oh. And, uh, why do Yout know that I didn't either? So re . Oh, that's what I'm saying from now on. Oh. But, um, I always keep them the leaves in my freezer. Yeah. Yeah. Like always. First of all, just even just for cocktails, they're really good. Yeah. But like, and lemongrass and things like that, but like, and like turmeric 'cause it freezes really well. Yeah. But like those flavors, man. Like I always keep banana leaves in my freezer. Oh yeah. Yeah. And there's just nothing like I know,
[00:35:03] Josh Sharkey:
it's the one thing, sugar salt, acid heat. Mm-Hmm. , you know, and
[00:35:06] Joey Sergentakis:
I gotta say, it's the one thing that we really, like, struggle with, like, since we moved back to America quite recently. Like, me and my wife, it's just, we go to the Asian market, try to buy as, you know, whatever we can. But it's not like What do you have, like, H Mart around here? Yeah, by my, um, where I live, there is a spot called Asian Market, and it's really good. It's like, you know, I mean really good, but it's not what we're used to, you know, living in Singapore, I was just, you know, walked on the street and I'm like, you know, I'm buying all these incredible products and like, you know, we miss stuff like Mangosteens that I can't get.
Yeah, Calamansi. Calamansi. And if I do find it, I'm paying. Yeah. We're paying for it. Yeah. And over there, it's like, I'm getting a great product for, you know.
[00:35:49] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah I always tell people like, Try to find frozen if you're gonna for some of those things like like calamansi Barlow makes a really good calamansi.
I know a perfect perimeter. They probably both do something a lot of those if you find fresh Probably I mean, there's a couple farms in California that grow a bunch of like citrus and actually grow like and I think Maryland too That yeah, but for the most part if you find them, I'll be not gonna be you know, I know I gotta get it frozen.
[00:36:15] Joey Sergentakis:
I struggle with pomelo. Yeah Also, so good mangoes, I mean mangoes are great here Mangoes are incredible.
[00:36:24] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, and also there's so many different varieties.
[00:36:26] Joey Sergentakis:
So many different varieties from Thailand, from Philippines, and, you know. I mean, it's just, it's tough. It's tough. I mean, especially like, you know, my wife is Indonesian, so we have, you know, even for her, just, so many of these fruits and vegetables. Just part of a repertoire for such a long time. Then now coming back is just so tough
[00:36:46] Josh Sharkey:
I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago for this conference. I met this woman, Ri, who's got this Indonesian restaurant there. Oh yeah? She shipped over a rice hut from Indonesia and put it in her backyard. Yeah. And her and her husband run this restaurant that's like, uh, it's really, first of all, it's beautiful and they grow.
All their own things there. So they in their yard, it's like in this like, you know, suburban community, you have this like rice hut and, and then they're growing like pineapples and. Oh, really? And like everything you can think of there, you know, like bananas and things, and it's all on the menu and in this beautiful rice hut that they shipped over.
And the reservation is like a year out because there's only six seats. Oh my God. I gotta go look this up. Yeah. It's really cool. I would love to and they're sweethearts. I'll put in the show notes more of the info about it, but, um, I didn't know a lot about, about the Indonesian cuisine. Oh, it's incredible.
There's like, there's like this golden rice, I think that was like really, really cool. But anyways.
[00:37:44] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. That's another cuisine. That's a. I think it's not really explored the way I'm surprised it's not. I mean, it's so good. It's another place I did a lot of stages in. I went out there and I learned how to cook a lot of, um, local dishes and stuff. Yeah. I also introduced to the repertoire that I was doing it.
[00:37:58] Josh Sharkey:
Are there any ingredients that like you're trying to make sure you can source here for?
[00:38:05] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh my God, I have a list. I mean, the thing is, is right now I'm doing Italian food and you know, there's a quite a lot of incredible products that we're able to use here, but I'm sure When the time comes, I'm, you know, doing an Asian restaurant and, you know, Asian ingredients. I'm gonna, I'm gonna need some support there. Yeah, yeah.
[00:38:24] Josh Sharkey:
Well, why don't we talk about Boschetto, because we're here. We're in Montclair, New Jersey. Why did you come back to open this place?
[00:38:31] Joey Sergentakis:
Funny story, actually. When I moved to Hong Kong, I met, uh, Rob Spina, who's my partner here. Mm hmm. Rob had, uh, a bunch of restaurants in Hong Kong.
Posto Poblico, Linguine Fini, Stone Nala. And him and his team, uh, I just became really close friends with. The chef, him, his partners and stuff. And Rob and I always spoke about, like, You know, we should open a restaurant one day together. We should. We just became like close friends. Is he from here? Yeah.
He's from New Jersey. I'm from New Jersey. Yeah. We just kept in touch. I, uh, he ended up moving back to America. Um, he's, you know, doing his thing and, you know, a few years later I ended up moving back to America. I'm like, all right, I'm gonna do it. You know, should we do it? So he had this idea for Boschetto.
He explained it to me, you know, we, um, in the beginning I was a little bit like, you know, I was a little unsure of what his vision was. It was, I gotta be honest with you, I wasn't too sure of like, you know, what we wanted to turn this into and, you know, we kept working on it little by little. It evolved into what we were able to create, and I think it's quite unique.
[00:39:37] Josh Sharkey:
Tell me about the concept. I mean, it seems, you know, you walk in, it's a beautiful open space, lots of glass, very white, white walls, white floor, and then, you know, obviously ordered the counter, but like, there's very little order. Like, what's the concept?
[00:39:49] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, it's different from anything I've ever done. It's different from anything. And it's like, you know, it's very casual vibe. But at the same time, very elevated. You know, we want people to feel like they can come in any time of the day. You know, they could be dressed up or they don't have to be dressed up. They, you know, come to the counter, order what they want, sit down.
We bring it out to them. They want to order more food. They can order more food. You know, it's, it's almost like this. We wanted to create this very, very casual.
[00:40:17] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. It's hard to explain. Like when I, when I see it, I like, you know, the menu is obviously like very traditional, not like red sauce Italian by any means, but like, you know, a lot of things that are like, yeah, like a lot of things that are somewhat familiar if you know, At least the, maybe level one and level two of Yeah.
Italian cuisine. But yeah, you can walk up to the register and order. You sit down. I'm, I'm assuming like if you want more server comes up, it's like, Hey, yeah. Refill your drinks. Things like that. Exactly. But yeah, it feels like yeah. The, the kind of place that you can, you can plan to go to on a Friday night or you can sit I'm hungry. Yeah. Get a bowl of pasta. Yeah. And, and pop in. Yeah. You know? I mean, there's down, there's like sparkling wine on the, on the counter, like,
[00:40:56] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. Then, then they come in and, and they order the food. And it's like, all right, you know, we focus, the majority of our team is in the kitchen because there's not too many waiters out here.
I mean, there really is no waiters. You order your food and we have a bunch of people that are able to, you know, serve the food and help out the guests, but it's not like people coming around taking your order. So in that respect, we're able to really focus on the food, you know, having a little bit extra staff, making sure that everything is perfect.
We're buying. You know, great ingredients and there's, you know, it's, it's also very simple. Yeah. You know, the, uh, Machu China, for example, it's the best guanciale that I can get. You know, I could keep, I try to, you know, maybe 15 different guanciales and right now I'm really happy with what I'm using. If I find a better one, I'll use it. Yeah. You know, it's, it's really just figuring out what the best product for use.
[00:41:48] Josh Sharkey:
Guanciale is tough. I know. Usually they're like over cured. Yeah.
[00:41:52] Joey Sergentakis:
They're like a little bit too hard. Too hard, you know, when you're cooking. It is, it is. Is it still remain that little and you know Yeah. Or is it gonna be try and salty and Yeah.
[00:42:00] Josh Sharkey:
You know, so, so I have to imagine you're, I think we were talking about this, like your version of Simple reminds me of like when Marcus Blocker is talking about how simple coalmine is. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Simple. Um, but you know, you, you have pretty small kitchen. Yeah. Uh, it's crazy how much you pump out of there, but it looks like, I mean, I, I spied a little bit in there.
Yeah. You know, yeah. I mean, using incredible ingredients. Bianco de Napoli tomatoes there. I see the caputo double zero, but it definitely seems like you're, you're doing some, some tricks to manage being in a small kitchen. Like I saw like the, the one. Kilo bags of caputo instead of like the big bags. I'm guessing it's just easier to store.
[00:42:38] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh no. Yeah. No, we're using the big ones as well Um, but what we do is we have delivery every day Yeah, you know and that's why i'm like so like it's a very very tight operation because we have no space Yeah, you know we finish up a night and the shelves are empty the next morning The shelves are full, you know, which is great because we have no choice But to rotate every day, you know?
Yeah. The fridge becomes full and the fridge, you know, becomes empty. Yeah. And it's like, uh, it's a very, very, very tight operation due to our space. Mm-Hmm. . But it's, it's working.
[00:43:11] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. It's working really well. But you make pizzas too, right? Yeah. So, yeah. I imagine they have to sit at least. 24 hours to do it. Actually, our dough is a 48 hour process. Yeah. So that takes up a space. Yeah. So we do a
[00:43:21] Joey Sergentakis:
poolish, you know, buy the, and then we do a bulk ferment and then we make our dough. I mean, it's, it's, it's a process, but, um, you know, it's, it's something that we have to just work with, with our space. I mean, half of our walk in box is like pizza.other half is
[00:43:35] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, that's great. And is the idea that you want to open more of these?
[00:43:42] Joey Sergentakis: Yeah, that's the idea. Yeah, yeah, for sure.
[00:43:45] Josh Sharkey:
When did you guys open?
[00:43:50] Joey Sergentakis:
Maybe, uh, two weeks ago. About two weeks ago. Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah,
it's quite new. I know it was recent. But we were, we were, we kind of went through a very long, soft opening.
And we did that on purpose. You know, we came into the space. And what's funny is, is that we came into the space with a menu and an idea for the restaurant. And the original idea was... Pizza, elevated pizza. Yep. And then as we started creating dishes and we were getting more products and it was like, it became an Italian restaurant almost, you know, I mean, it became an Italian restaurant, more of an Italian restaurant than a pizza spot, which was our original idea.
[00:44:20] Josh Sharkey:
What I like about it is that it's, I mean, it's beautiful in here, but it also definitely feels approachable. Yeah. And so you're probably gonna get people in here that might not know what a Amatriciana is. Or if you have like, you know, uh, a la guitar or something, they're gonna be like, oh, that's interesting.
And you start to teach people about this cuisine that they wouldn't have, you know. Exactly. Typically, they might have gotten to a spot that's casual and gotten... Lasagna. Yeah. And bolognese. Yeah, bolognese. And exactly. And here your, your, your menu is like, yeah, you're getting a little bit regional. And I mean, I, by the way, are you trying to focus on different regions or it's just
[00:44:50] Joey Sergentakis: not necessarily. Yeah. And what's great is like our team is really well trained when it comes to like the, the knowledge of these dishes, because they're not, nobody knows what, not nobody, but a lot of guests. are not coming to the restaurant knowing what Vitello Tonnato is. Yeah. You know, that's part of the experience.
[00:45:07] Joey Sergentakis:
Come in, you know, what is this? You know, what are these different things? We're doing it like, um, we're making a panuzzi, which is a, uh, nobody, like, again, not a lot of people know what panuzzi is, but it's a, um, it's a sandwich that we make with pizza dough. So a guest comes to a restaurant and they're like, uh, you know, we have a couple of panuzzi on the menu.
So. And I'll have this. We take the, the dough, throw it in the oven, bake it. So every single sandwich. Get fresh bread. Has fresh bread. It's awesome. Yeah. It's awesome. And you know, people come in like, really? And they try it in the bread. I mean, the sandwich is a winner.
[00:45:41] Josh Sharkey:
It's a, you know. I think people underestimate, like, how helpful it can be to have, like, pizza dough on your menu. I know. I just think, like, my kid, I have a four year old son named Stone, who doesn't eat much at all. Yeah. He barely eats bread, but we, we bought the, the electric Ooni. Yeah. Which is sick, by the way. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It doesn't heat up the house, gets to 850, like, in, like, 20 minutes. Yeah, I want to get one of those.
And, um, and so he, he likes making the dough with me. And the only way he'll eat bread now is when we make... We, he doesn't call it pizza, he calls it pita, and so we'll just like roll it out, and he wants to see it bake, and then he eats it, and my wife and I every time are like, Why don't we just eat bread every night like this?
So now we just like always have pizza dough around, and so when we want bread, we just like throw a, throw a dough in the oven, and it's, It's fresh every time, it's delicious, and that's such a good idea for sandwiches,
[00:46:35] Joey Sergentakis:
by the way. Oh, it's insane. It's great. I mean, you gotta try it.
[00:46:38] Joey Sergentakis:
Because also, like, also do, uh, we also make gnocco fritto. Oh, nice. Which is, like, you know, the fried. Yeah. So, um. You know, the dough is important, and I think we have a solid dough now. Like, you know, we did a lot of R&D on, on how we wanted to make our dough, and, um, Is
[00:46:54] Josh Sharkey:
is it a Neapolitan style, or is it more New York style, or?
[00:46:58] Joey Sergentakis:
I would say it's almost like a hybrid, in a way. You know, I'm using double zero flours, I'm 100 percent double zero? Yeah, 100 percent double zero. Um, and I'm using a deck oven, so it's like, you're not supposed to do that, right? I mean Who wrote the rule on that? But, listen. It's really good. You know, what temp are you cooking it? Uh, it's about, um, 600, 625.
Yeah. You know? Yeah. It's total, it's a long process. It's not, it's not a high, it's not a, uh, it takes about eight minutes to cook it. Yeah. You know, it's not a, um, nothing like a neopolitan, but they're small. It's again, right. We opened up, when we were opening this restaurant, we were thinking about doing an 18 inch pizza.
Yeah. And then we're, you know, we started working on the menu. Thinking about the space, are we going to serve an 18 inch pizza? Nobody's going to order the octopus that's on the menu, the, the, you know, the pomodoro salad that we made that's on the menu. Like, I want people to come here, have a pizza, order a couple of, you know, appetizers or a couple, you know, pastas.
We even have a steak now. We just launched it. Yeah. You know, it's, it's working. This idea of small pizza. So I'm like, you know, yeah,
[00:48:00] Josh Sharkey:
I've been seeing this pop up a lot lately that I had never actually never even eaten it But like cooking like mussels in pizza dough.
[00:48:07] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh, oh in the pizza dough.
[00:48:09] Josh Sharkey: Yeah You like, you know just seal it and then you just bake the mussels in there.
[00:48:13] Joey Sergentakis:
I guess it makes sense I've never tried that before but I think it would make sense because you know, obviously you get all the juices I it doesn't get soggy
[00:48:20] Josh Sharkey:
But like I don't know if you just put it on the tray and then you stick slide it off But yeah, it looks really good I'm curious, obviously you're, now you're cooking, like, you're cooking Italian food that's probably as far from Kunz as we could, or maybe even Daniel, but like, I'm curious, you still, there's still, I'm sure, so much impact of those two chefs and Rochat on what you do, but like, what are some of the lasting impacts that Chef Kunz and Daniel and maybe Rochat have had on you?
[00:48:45] Joey Sergentakis:
Oh my god, I mean, listen, I think, I, Italian food, Like, I think, I think, I think if Chef Gray were to open it, you know, I'm sure, you know, obviously he would do it much better because it's Chef Gray. But you know, I, you know, with the inspirations like I did with Chef Gray and, and Daniel, you know, especially, you know, I have tomato fondue, you know, I'm sure you know tomato fondue.
You know, these are, these are things that are part of my repertoire. I don't cook like a traditional Italian chef because I'm not a traditional Italian chef. Yeah. And. Uh, Rob Spina, my partner here, who has opened quite a lot of Italian restaurants, that's his thing is Italian food. Yeah. And in a way it's my thing because I'm Italian and I grew up on that, in that, in that cuisine, but I never worked it in a, in a, in a professional environment, you know, like, like, like this.
So, you know, knowing that, I think that. I have, that's why I'm just naturally, you know, it's a, it's a unique cuisine just because I've, the inspirations that I have are not really like that. Yeah. Like I used to make this, um, black olive mousse d'olive with Daniel and you know, we're using something similar to that in the restaurant, you know, tomato fondue from, you know, chef gray, little bits and pieces kind of make their way into the menu, you know?
[00:49:59] Josh Sharkey:
I feel like it's funny, like. Every chef that I work for, there's obviously so much of the food that you take with you and the recipes. I'm curious what you think about this. With Kunz, for me, like the biggest takeaway is just like this, the level of excellence. Mm hmm. In stepping into anything that you do.
Yeah. And like the expectation that everything has to be... Thought through and that every little tiny thing matters. Yeah, and there was just a you know It just like oozed out of him. Yeah, like, you know, he tries to make a cafe and you know, we have like these pristine trays with racks and towels under them and Himalayan sea salt things coming out, like that's his style of a fajita, you know, it's like this beautiful, like, he can't not do that.
I find that, like, that the biggest takeaway for me from Chef Kunz was approaching things with this level of excellence that doesn't matter what it is, like it, you know, you can, you can sort of just raise the bar to have this sort of. I can't, there's another way to describe it than this, this like level of excellence that, yeah.
That seems so cliche, but it's like, it's just so adamant in everything that he did.
[00:51:11] Joey Sergentakis:
Perfect example, the spoon. Yeah. The perfect example is the spoon. You know, he, he knew exactly. What we're missing in a kitchen. This kind of perfect shape, perfect amount of, uh, you know, volume, the perfect hand feel, perfect metal, you know, the, the, the steel, I mean, you know, it was like he would take things and think about it.
And think, how could we make this better? Like, you know, even we developed these, um, these trays in Hong Kong. I'm not sure if you guys ever used this in New York or if this was a Hong Kong thing, but we had these trays made for like past hors d'oeuvres where spoons would sit on this kind of wood. Bass. Mm hmm. Did you guys do that in New York?
[00:51:56] Josh Sharkey:
Uh, we had, we had some pretty dope trays, but I don't, I don't know if it's particularly that one.
[00:52:01] Joey Sergentakis:
This was, this was made for, um, like passed hors d'oeuvres. I mean, we had a piece, it was like a, it was like a wood, wood piece that came up. It had these little grooves that fit perfectly for small spoons to sit inside so that when they walked, they could just take it off of this wood base and they were like kind of floating.
Yeah. And it was like, We had a bunch of stuff made like that, all custom, like, he just, I remember he also had made this, um, steamer, he made a steamer where we had his plancha in the restaurant, and we steamed a lot of fish, we steamed a lot of stuff in the restaurant, and we got to a point where we were like, we need a bigger steamer, and those round traditional ones didn't really make sense for our operation, and we went to a guy in Hong Kong that That was like a metal, like a, he was able to make stuff for us and he designed this like rectangle.
Steamer that we set on top of the plancha with these different layers.
[00:53:03] Josh Sharkey:
That's so cool. Yeah, it was cool. Yeah. It was incredible. And, you know, now we're just sort of like, like sharing some memories. It was cool. But I remember like the Himalayan sea salt blocks. He had these beautiful, like perfect rectangle Himalayan sea salt blocks.
There's just a block of Himalayan sea salt. And he would do these, these kaffir. Yeah, with the marinade and you have the kaffir lime. And you know, like you think of like a flaming fajita and it's like, but he has like a silver platter with a perfect, beautiful like towel underneath and then a beautiful silver rack over that.
And then, you know, you're heating up this Himalayan sea salt block and then it goes out to the table with this like aromatic. I'm like, fuck man, that is so, it's insane. It was delicious. And you know, it was like, what would it, what would it be like to do a, a flaming fajita if there was just a, a step function level of excellence more than, than what it is.
And that's, and that was Kunz. Yeah. Yeah. Was there anything like that with, um, um, I just think of, you know, you know, other chefs that, that we work for. What about with Daniel? Was there anything like
[00:54:09] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah absolutely. Any takeaway? I mean, I think they all. And the reason they are where they are is because of their sense of uniqueness and techniques and stuff.
And, you know, and Daniel did some great, great stuff as well. But I would say like, you know, for me it was, I think working with chefs like Daniel and Chef Gray and, and Rochat, you know, all these, these great chefs, they always have these level of, um, execution that they're, that, that, that they want to achieve.
It's always like 10 steps higher than the average mindset. And that always creates conflict, I think, not always, but it could create a conflict between, you know, what we're trying to do as chefs and maybe the management or the front of house or something. And you know, that's why it's really important to be on a team that embraces it.
And that pushes it, you know, I think that, um, we were very lucky in Hong Kong. We had a great team that were, you know, embracing it. Like, I mean, our team was like, yeah, let's make this steamer that Chef Gray making. Most people were like, you know, what are you trying to do? Why don't we just get a steamer?
No, no, no. It gets this great idea because it fits perfectly. You know, he had something in his mind that made sense. I got it because I was his, you know, his guy and I understood what he was going for. And I was in the kitchen with him every day, but did everybody else understand? But they embraced it and they let it, you know, let it happen and we were able to
create some great things.
[00:55:38] Josh Sharkey:
There's another thing about Gray that I think was, he was really good at figuring out how to get things executed. I think that you bring up a good point, like, I think I was talking about this with maybe Marcus or someone else. You know, it doesn't matter how innovative you are, how like, incredible of a dish you create.
If you can't execute it in service every day, it's never gonna happen. I know. Unless you can charge like a thousand dollars a dish, a thousand dollars a meal, which not many people can. Yep. It's just not gonna, it doesn't matter, you know? And that's part of how like, we are sort of, you know, innovation curve like slows in any industry, food being one of them.
This is like, restaurants have dollars, you know, dollars and cents are the bottom line, you know, it's hard to operate and you can only do so much, you know, if you had unlimited capital, unlimited space, your menu here might be different, you know, exactly, you know, but you just don't have a choice that this is, you got to sort of operate within those confines and the great chefs figure out how to like execute.
[00:56:39] Joey Sergentakis:
You got to figure out consistency, it's the most important thing.
[00:56:42] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, Floyd, we just did a dinner for Floyd at the Cookies for Kids charity a couple weeks ago. Yeah. Uh, so we're thinking a lot about him, and... The big takeaway with Floyd as a, as a chef was like, he was just such a technician. Everything was like, everything was a technique and either just like iterating a new version of a technique of something that was already difficult or just, you know, kind of pushing this, this view of like, you have to be a technician and he was.
I think by far the best technician I've ever seen in the kitchen. And he, you know, obviously he worked for Kunz as well, so he has a flavor thing. But I think that's the cool thing about when you work for all these chefs, and then you come and open a place like Baschetto. There's so much more that, that goes into the food that you created than just like the recipes you learned, or like the techniques, it's like, like the, the people that you, that you work with.
[00:57:32] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, there's things that we always, that, you know, again, like taking away from each, each restaurant, it's like how we're setting up our station, you know, how we're, you know, setting up our towel, how we, how we wear a towel, you know, how we wear our apron. We go, go outside into the dining room.
Like these are just things that are implanted into me because of my time with these chefs and these people that I've worked into that I'm going to hopefully instill into the cooks that work with me now.
[00:57:59] Josh Sharkey:
It's so interesting, that element of being, of cooking at that level that sticks with you that, you know, I have a software company now and like, you know, I'll bring some of my team to events or something, we'll do like a food event, and you realize how much, um, how big of a gap there is in some of these things that seem innocuous, but like, like, we were at an event last week and, you know, one of the team members just Just left their apron on the table scrunched up.
[00:58:26] Josh Sharkey:
And I'm like, you know, I really get mad because I'm like, yeah, you don't know, but I'm like, and so I had this conversation with, with the person because, um, about that and something else of like, I want you to think about everything that you're doing as if you Michelin restaurant and just think to yourself, ask yourself, would that be okay?
You know? And that's just not, that's not just. The, you know, the things like, you know, an apron, and I think this carries over to any business that anybody has, it doesn't matter if you're in the kitchen or not, like, the people that you serve, you know, when you walk into a Eleven Madison Park, you know, like, they know your name, they've thought about, you know, like Was it raining outside?
Do I, do I have a towel waiting for you? Or is it going to be raining when you leave and I have an umbrella waiting for you? And I already know the things that you like and, and I've thought about those things ahead of time and you make you feel special. And that's, there's a level of that and everything that, that, that comes into like a really high level execution at restaurants like that you've run that carries over to so many different industries.
Absolutely. And that's the cool thing about when you hire people to work for you, is you can instill that in them. Yeah.
[00:59:38] Joey Sergentakis:
You know. Absolutely. I mean, this is a... small Italian restaurant with pizza, pasta, and I'm like, You know, these, these techniques and these things that were instilled into me, I'm doing here, you know, I don't care if I'm serving whatever I'm serving, it's going to be the same the way I, you know, the way I cook, you know, everything is the same approach.
It's just different food. Maybe more simple, but at the end of the day, the approach is always the same.
[01:00:04] Josh Sharkey:
And that's, I think the, that's what's so important. Yeah. Because you, we do need restaurants like this. These are really important. You can't just have three star Michelin restaurants. Yeah. You have to have everything in between, but we are our actions.
So if you open this restaurant and you behave differently, and you think differently, and you don't have that level of excellence, then. None of it really matters. You can't compartmentalize. You can't be that in the three star and not be that in this. Not be that if you have a QSR restaurant. It's either that you are or you aren't.
And I think that's what's so cool about QSR. People like you opening restaurants like Broschetto is that you, you're going to have that, you're going to have that level of excellence no matter what, no matter if there's like tablecloths, no matter if there's, you know, a tasting menu or if you can walk up and order the counter, that it's just going to be that same fucking thing no matter what, you know, that's what I love.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, so, any other like projects in the works?
[01:00:59] Joey Sergentakis:
I'm in the midst of, uh, doing a project in Allendale, Allendale, New Jersey actually. It's going to be called Allendale Social. It's, uh, very different. Different type of restaurant. It's more of a restaurant. We have, uh, you know, full bar.
It's about 50 seats, small restaurant. It's gonna be really great. Eclectic menu, new American style. We should be open by late November. Oh, wow.
[01:01:22] Josh Sharkey:
So it's, it's, uh, it's in the works. Yeah. Yeah. Do you have a team already?
[01:01:25] Joey Sergentakis:
Sort of. Not really. I'm still hiring. I've, I've, you know, had some interviews and stuff already with some people we have to, we have to put our team together.
You know, it's, it's difficult because for me, I've been overseas for 14 years, so I don't have a list of chefs that, that I know anymore. You know, I have my cousin who's a chef in New York and what's great about him is he's helping me so much when it comes to products. Yeah. Like, you know, chef, you know, should I use for this?
Who should I talk to? And he helps me a lot with that. But when it comes to staffing, it's, it's tough. Yeah.
[01:01:56] Josh Sharkey:
I mean, staffing's a Yeah. So if you're listening and you live in Jersey, hit up Joey. Yeah, yeah. Hit me up. I need some help. Uh, my guess is you'll probably have a bunch of other projects too. I mean, for everything that you've done, like, it seems like you're probably gonna, you know, have to have a, an empire restaurant.
Well, this was awesome, man. Yeah. Yeah. Thank, thank you. Thanks, thanks. Oh, I forgot, by the way, we have a Kunz spoon for you. Oh. Because we give one to everybody. Okay. But it's getting shipped here. Oh, thank you. I did bring you a, I did bring you a meez bag. Awesome. Awesome. So when you go to the market, you can, uh, you know, you can carry that around.
Appreciate it. Appreciate it. But this was awesome, man. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm stoked we got to meet in person, by the way. Yeah, yeah,
[01:02:29] Joey Sergentakis:
Yeah. Absolutely. So great chatting with you
[01:02:31] Josh Sharkey:
And this is my first time in Montclair, New Jersey. Oh, really? We'll hang out.
[01:02:35] Joey Sergentakis:
We'll hang out.
[01:02:38] Josh Sharkey:
Thanks for tuning in to the meez Podcast.
[01:02:40] Josh Sharkey:
The music from the show is a remix of the song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more, visit getmeez.com/podcast. That's G E T M E E Z dot com. Slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcast.
[01:03:01] Josh Sharkey:
Keep innovating. Don't settle. Make today a little bit better than yesterday. And remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.