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Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman’s and Reynards restaurants aside, Andrew Tarlow is first and foremost an astute diner. One that advocates communal life and believes food should be grown with intellect. Starting as a bartender in 1994, Tarlow has spent his entire career in the restaurant business. Today he’s the man behind some of Brooklyn’s coolest eateries, a butcher shop (Marlow & Daughters) and an independent food journal named upon his first haunt – the Diner. Since this spring, he’s also the manager of Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel and its farm-to-table restaurant, the Reynards.
FDL caught up with him for a quick food talk.
You opened you first restaurant, Diner, in 1998. How did you end up working in the food business?
I didn’t make that choice; it’s something that I’m passionate about. Something that comes natural to me and I’ve been working at restaurants prior to that. I have done everything from bartender to waiter… everything.
From home cooks to Italian groceries, it seems like part of your approach to food is about revisiting rather than inventing. Am I right?
Yeah, we try to look back to the way things were done before and to how we lost those habits and we try to recreate it gain. In terms of food, I don’t think that anything needs to be reinvented, it’s just good to see the quality hidden in tradition and the ways things were done in the past. We’re looking for veggies that are grown organically, as they used to be done decades ago. Or try to find out how do make bread with wheat that is stone ground, we work on the flavor profile that comes from that.
So, which is the most important element in food for you?
I’m really passionate about the farmers, and I’m really passionate about the people who raise all the animals for us. It all starts from there.
What kind of food do you cook for yourself?
All kinds, the food that I cook at home is very similar to the restaurants, it’s very straightforward. Olive oil, herbs, vegetables… I love fire.
So how is food in your restaurants?
We try to work more on a European model rather than the American, we try to have less meat and more vegetables on the menu. We do this in all restaurants, even at the Reynards.
You’re talking about Wythe Hotel’s Reynards restaurant, which opened this spring. How did this come up?
I’ve been passionate about the idea of getting into the hotel business, this idea of people staying over and us extending the hospitality, like if they were sleeping in our house. Then I met my partners and all that took place. The way you do things is the exact opposite of how haute cuisine works.
What’s your view on experimental cooking?
I intellectually understand it, but it’s not something that I’m interested in.
Where are you interested in dining?
Somewhere where they source their ingredients in a thoughtful way and they’re caring about what they put on the plate each day. It just needs to be thoughtful. When I travel (and I travel quite much) I always organize where I’m going to eat. I don’t really go to places where there’s not good food. I try to go to Europe twice a year; this is always inspiring.