154 Central Park South, New York, NY
May 1, 2008
NYRI: You grew up in Connecticut, where? What early experiences did you have in the restaurant business or with cooking in general?
Kerry Heffernan: Rowayton, Connecticut. My 2nd job was a place called Old MacDonald’s Farm, kind of an old working farm and amusement park with wonderful traditional American food.
NYRI: You graduated 2nd in your class at CIA, who was first? How did your CIA experience help you succeed?
Kerry Heffernan: Lisa Ferrari. I think she is out of the business now, but I was also one of the youngest. Absolutely; CIA was about friendships, broadening of perspective and some extraordinary teachers.
NYRI: What chefs were early influences in bringing your skills to new levels and enhancing your appreciation for ingredients and technique?
Kerry Heffernan: David Bouley; finesse delicacy and the first taste of truly modern French/American Cuisine. Alfred Portale; focus of flavors, precision in ingredients and presentation, and a real grip on 3-star quality at consistent levels amidst high volume. Tom Colicchio; friend, mentor, fishing buddy, a kind of comfort with food yet total elegance and “listening” to the product.
NYRI: What restaurant did you have your best and worst experiences as a chef? Who was the most intimidating chef you’ve worked for?
Kerry Heffernan: There was a Chef at CIA called Aldo Bagna who was intimidating, almost a caricature now. Best experience as chef was at Eleven Madison Park, but the current digs and the increased role is giving me a whole new perspective and fulfillment.
NYRI: Do you think working for Danny Meyer at Eleven Madison was a turning point for you? What were the highlights of your years there at Eleven Madison? When and why did you leave?
Kerry Heffernan: Danny is a mentor and friend on a whole different level. He taught me to really listen to everyone and everything; the guests, the staff, the purveyors, the community. So many highlights of my years there; always the S.O.S charity dinner each fall, it’s a great time of year for food and all the good will (not to mention dishes) of the contributing Chefs. I left in November 2005 to open Hudson Yards Catering with Danny.
NYRI: You must be excited about working at this beautiful restaurant, when did you begin planning for SouthGate? What are your ultimate goals here, and how will you measure its success?
Kerry Heffernan: I’m very excited. My role began in late August of 2007. My goals are to be the most comfortable elegant spot, serving exciting and dynamic food in this renaissance of a neighborhood. Success will be an equal measure of the look on people’s faces throughout the experience, their return visits, and the ability to help make a difference in the local community, and to be able to serve, and perhaps inspire my community of chefs.
NYRI: What are some of most exciting aspects of the menu you have created here? What are some of your favorite dishes?
Kerry Heffernan: Favorite dishes, Hamchi with Eucalyptus, Spice Roasted Cod, Pork Belly with Fennel seeds cider vinegar and fragrant honey gastrique.
NYRI: What are some of your favorite ingredients that you tend to use over and over again? Same question for favorite purveyors?
Kerry Heffernan: Ingredients are the freshest fish that change from season to season, Ramps, Ramps, Anything that epitomizes the season.
NYRI: What are the differences between this restaurant and others you have worked at in the past, as far as freedom of expression, management experience, etc?
Kerry Heffernan: It is a bit different working in a Hotel, but even though I have done that before, I never found the depth and breadth of the Jumeirah team.
NYRI: Are you a partner in Southgate?
Kerry Heffernan: Not as such, but we have a partnership in vision.
NYRI: What do you think of the job Tony Chi has done with the design, and were you involved in that process?
Kerry Heffernan: Despite all the challenges we faced, the restaurant is simply stunning, I have grown immensely from my experience here.
NYRI: Where were your best fly-fishing experiences, and do you have a couple of fish stories you’d like to share?
Kerry Heffernan: Best fly-fishing is the ones that result in dinner. I could name the 18-pound Striped Bass on the Flats of Easthampton, or the 30-pound Bluefin Tuna just off of Watch Hill Rhode Island and the meals and memories.