I love food people. I come from a family of food people, and I admire people who have a passion for cooking. Food and dining is one the most commonly shared communal activities and interests that every culture shares. We all have to eat after all, so why not together? Often, when we're traveling, we love to ask for recommendations of places we should check out. Recently while traveling in New York we were asked to come by and check out some of the offerings at the Beatrice Inn, a restaurant managed by Executive Chef Angie Mar. The food and environment was so welcoming and delicious so we asked Chef Angie a few questions about the Beatrice and how she started her culinary adventures.
How did Beatrice Inn begin?
The Beatrice Inn has quite a storied history. It was built in 1841 and at some point, became a speakeasy. It was then an Italian restaurant for years, followed by a nightclub. It was always a fabulous mess of models and one of the grittier clubs on the New York scene until it was shuttered. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair then took it over and re-concepted the location into what it is today. I’m actually the third chef to take the helm of the kitchen here, and it’s been my baby for the past year and a half to revamp the culinary focus. My team and I have put a lot of time and love into this place to bring it back to life and we are so proud of where it is now.
What is the biggest theme that carries through your food?
There are so many! I always cook what I love to eat, so the basis of my food is meat, fruit and herbs. I like to play with masculine and feminine qualities and ideas- Whole lamb shanks are balanced with cherries and hearty herbs; pork shoulders that are beautiful and rustic are lightened with aromas of jasmine and browned butter. Basically I always want food to be incredibly sexy. Food should be sensual and thought provoking- It should mess with your mind because there are so many harmonious flavors, textures and temperatures to indulge in.
How did you first start your journey in cooking? Did you go to a traditional culinary institute?
I actually had a career in the corporate world prior to this. I was incredibly bored and unfulfilled. My family is in the restaurant industry, so perhaps it’s in my blood and I just fought it for too long. I finally quit my job and after travelling for a few months, decided to move to New York and follow my passion.
How did some of the specialties come about? Family recipes from Seattle?
Honestly, I cook what I love to eat… And that would be a lot of meat. Beef, lamb, and game meats, like venison and wild boar are all flavors from my childhood. There are certain dishes like the chicken liver pate or the pork shoulder that I’ve been cooking since I was about 15, but the majority of the menu is inspired by my travels, or what my parents cooked when I was growing up. Its food that will remind you of your grandparents, just a bit elevated and reimagined.
What do you hope people take away from their dining experience at Beatrice Inn?
I believe that most great relationships, friendships and memories begin around the dinner table - Or at least that has been my experience. My goal is that our guests will not only enjoy our food, but will also leave here with the experience of great relationships, friendships and memories over the meal that they’ve shared… Feeding people is such a privilege for us.
How do you get ideas for new recipes and specialties?
That’s a question that people have been asking a lot lately. Where do I go to eat when I’m off that I can draw inspiration from? It may sound a bit odd, but I actually don’t go out to eat very much. I love to be in my own head, and I’ve found that when I go out to eat other people’s food, I tend to be the least creative- I hate having outside influencers. Instead I love to explore the farmer’s markets and look for incredibly beautiful ingredients. Right now I’m incredibly smitten with strawberries and cherries. I also just really cook for my menu, the foods that I happen to be craving.
What is your biggest inspiration?
The energy in New York is unlike anything else in the world. Being surrounded by so many tenacious and talented people on a daily basis really pushes your boundaries. I’ve always been of the mindset that failure is not an option and that we create our own luck. Having the ability to create and shape my future is really what drives me.
How does your history influence what you make?
Our history always shapes who we are and who we will become, doesn’t it? For me, the fact that my mother is Taiwanese, but spent time in England, and my father was born in America, I am sure has shaped my palate. Meat pies, beef and of course the staple of jasmine rice is always what I crave as its what I ate growing up.
What has been your biggest lesson in the culinary industry?
Trusting my instinct. I’ve never been one to listen to others, and anyone that has spent time with me can tell you that I rarely color in between the lines. The facets of the kitchen require you to just say “Yes Chef”, and my kitchen is definitely run in the same manner. However, there came a point in my career where I had to stop saying “Yes Chef” to someone and build my own future. The move I made was crazy, but it felt right, and taking over the Beatrice, baggage and all, has proved to be the best instinctual decision I could have ever made.
What's your favorite thing about working in the culinary industry?
That’s a tough question since there are so many facets to our industry. I love the rush that I get when we are in the middle of service. I love waking up early in the morning to go to the markets for the best produce. Watching my guys cook is something that will never get old for me - they move with incredible speed and grace, and it’s often like watching a ballet. But the ability to be able to translate ideas, from my brain, onto a plate, and have people experience it, every day… That is something that I will always find to be an incredible privilege.
What's been your best advice you've been given?
The best advice that someone gave me was to not listen to the noise. To keep my head down and work harder and faster and smarter than anyone else, but most importantly, to not be afraid to be different or take risks.
What's been your biggest challenge?
I’ve actually only been cooking for about 5 years, so in the big scope of things, many people would say that I came up very fast. I think my biggest challenge is maintaining my personal life. Part of the reason I think I’ve advanced this fast is that I’ve not stopped to come up for air. There has been very little play time in the past five years, but I’m also incredibly okay with that.