Some restaurants feature extravagant decorations and bizarre ingredients to attract customers, but celebrity chef Dan Kluger has a different idea of luxury in mind. After years of working with some of the best culinary masters in New York City, he’s decided to take his career to the next level and branch out on his own. His long-awaited new eatery, Loring Place, is located in the heart of Greenwich Village and captures everything there is to love and celebrate about the city. The menu features only the freshest locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, and the atmosphere promotes a cozy and comfortable vibe that feels both like home and the perfect hideout.
You wouldn’t know that Kluger is a celebrity chef just by looking at him. A suburban father of two, he has always kept humility at the center of everything he does, and it’s paying off. Despite not having ever attended culinary school, his attitude and work ethic has allowed him to dominate the art of cooking and rise to the ranks alongside New York City’s top chefs.
Recently, Kluger left a long career working for some of the world’s most renowned restaurant owners to open a venue of his own. His new eatery in Greenwich Village is called Loring Place, but before venturing out on his own, he had acquired an impressive resume under Danny Meyer at Union Square Cafe, Floyd Cardoz at Tabla Restaurant, and Tom Colicchio at The Core Club. In 2008 Kluger joined the team directed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who later personally selected him to be Executive Chef at the wildly popular ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina.
Kluger’s most prestigious accomplishments include winning the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2011 and Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award in 2012, as well as being nominated for the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City, but it is also important to recognize his tremendous accomplishments in the realm of community service. As a Chef Co-Chair for Cookies for Kids’, Cancer’s annual gala, he was able to help raise over $1.2 million in donations toward childhood cancer research. He also sponsors Edible Schoolyard NYC, a nonprofit which integrates an environmentally-conscious, garden-based food education into the everyday public school curriculum.
The new spot, Loring Place, is named nostalgically after a street where Kluger’s dad would play baseball as a kid. The name reflects the restaurant’s—and its owner’s—style of making basic things beautiful and profound. The Loring Place menu emphasizes seasonal ingredients locally sourced from farmers whom Kluger has personally known for years. The decoration is just as simple, opting for muted colors on wood, brick, and concrete in order for the food and the people to serve as the focal points. Even the dining room tables are made from the building’s old floorboards. Given everyday items, Kluger undoubtedly has a knack for making them memorable.
Some people have wondered why it’s taken Kluger twenty years to open his own restaurant. His answer comes as humble advice: You can’t rush the process and expect to see the payoff instantaneously. You always have to be learning and challenging yourself with skills and ideas that make you uncomfortable. That’s how the best chefs become masters at their craft. The payoff has been twenty years in the making, and it’s finally here.
We joined Dan Kluger (wearing a grey Triple F.A.T. Goose Scotia) at the table to listen to more of his story.
Could you give us a brief introduction about your new restaurant? What sets your restaurant apart?
The restaurant is located in Greenwich Village and the menu is locally sourced, seasonal American cuisine. I don’t know that there is one specific thing that sets us apart from others, but I try to always use the best ingredients from farmers that I have had long relationships with over the years to make great food.
What’s your thought process in determining what goes on the menu and what doesn’t?
Since our menu is seasonal, items that we are able to find fresh at the market or receive from the farms we work with determine a lot of what goes on the menu. From there it’s a lot about cooking from the heart and making food I want to eat. If I don’t like it…it typically doesn’t go on the menu.
Was there a moment you can think of that you consider to be your big break in the culinary world?
To be honest I think it was two fold, one was when I was fortunate enough to meet Danny Meyer while at Syracuse. He offered me an externship in the FOH and I fell in love with the restaurant industry immediately. The other is when we opened ABC Kitchen. I was so fortunate to be cooking the food I wanted to be cooking but more importantly to be able to collaborate with Jean-Georges and his corporate chef Greg Brainin. ABC became an immediate success and that obviously was good for my career.
If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hmmmm that’s really hard, I can’t choose just one. Pizza, Sushi and Dark Chocolate…and not altogether.
Please tell us about some of the charity work that you do.
I am very involved with Cookies for Kids Cancer and I am a Chef Co-Chair of their Annual Chef’s for Kids Cancer event. Its an amazing event with an incredible group of chefs for a very important cause. I am also a big supporter of Edible Schoolyard.
Do you have advice that you would like to offer to up-and-coming chefs?
Its really hard! It's not glamorous, it's tiring and the money sucks, but there is nothing like it. The rush of cooking during service, the ability to create food and experiences, and most importantly to make people happy...it’s all amazing. However, you do have to put in your time and learn. You have to sweat it out with other cooks that are stronger and weaker than you. You need to get your “butt-kicked” as all of these experiences teach you something. Don’t rush it and expect instant gratification….that will come later.
With the popularity of Instagram, you have foodies all over taking photos of their meals - I know some chefs and restaurants would prefer patrons not take out their camera phones and snap photos. Some establishments have a specific no photo policy. How do you feel about this?
I have no issue with it in practice and truthfully, I find it flattering when photos are posted of anything I have cooked. I just wish they did it faster and with less of a production. Sometimes I find people start moving everything on the table around, or get up from the table to get the perfect angle…that’s great, but ultimately the dish is changing while this is happening and in some cases you may be disturbing the table next to you.
What do you eat at home? Describe a typical lunch for your kids.
Dinner is typically something like roasted chicken or pork chops on the grill (even in the winter I’m on the grill) and then some simply cooked vegetables. From there, I will tend to break out some sauces that are on the side for my wife so that the kids food is a little simpler. Their lunch changes a lot and honestly, I am normally out the door by the time so my wife takes on that task…sometimes leftover roasted chicken, lasagna or their favorite….mac and cheese.
You are known for using locally sourced ingredients. Any plans of setting up your own farm?
Someday I hope so. I have been working with some of the farmers that I have good relationships with to try and do more of a partnership where they are guaranteed business and we are guaranteed products grown to our specs. I don’t envy them, it's hard work; so who knows how far we will go with our own farm.
What is your ideal summer dish?
Summer – grilled corn with butter and cherry tomatoes with little chilies and vinegar.
You’ve never attended culinary school. Do you feel this gives you an edge to think outside the box and be more creative?
No not at all. I think I have been very fortunate to have been a fast learner and to have been exposed to the right chefs at the right time in my life. However, had I known this is what I wanted to do, I certainly would have considered going to culinary school.
You seem to be a big fan of 90’s music. Biggie, Jay-Z, R&B, etc.. I heard you were once a DJ. Do you plan on making a comeback?
Ha, yeah I DJ’d in college and a few years after. I think any comebacks I make will be designated to my basement….but then again, I guess if anyone is looking for me to be the chef and the DJ of their party…I could be persuaded.
Do you have a favorite memory of Triple F.A.T. Goose from your childhood days?
I guess just that it reminds me of college (Syracuse) as a lot of my friends had them.