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Saturday, February 14, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Kerry Heffernan, Executive Chef of South Gate at the Essex House!!!

Kerry Heffernan is not only a Mover and Shaker, but also he is a fisher and baker! The Executive Chef of South Gate, Kerry and the Jumeirah Essex House have added a new dimension to the Central Park South dining landscape, with South Gate, one of the finest Manhattan restaurants. Peachy Deegan gives it her highest recommendation.

Executive Chef Kerry Heffernan brings 20 years of culinary excellence, experience and leadership to the kitchen of South Gate (154 Central Park South, 212.484.4715). This welcome addition to the Central Park South dining landscape will feature the outstanding seasonal American fare for which he has become known.

Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Connecticut, Kerry developed an interest in the culinary arts at a very young age. At 14, he took a job in a local restaurant, laying the foundation for the stellar career that lay ahead. Following high school, Kerry bicycled through Europe for four months, spending a good portion of that time exploring the goût de terroir in the South of France. There, he set up camp – literally, living in a tent – and found a job baking croissants. He returned home to attend the Culinary Institute of America, graduating second in his class.

After spending a year cooking and traveling throughout Europe, Kerry returned to New York City, honing his skills at such highly regarded restaurants as Montrachet, Le Régence, Restaurant Bouley and served as Sous Chef, working with Chef Tom Colicchio at Mondrian before landing his first job as Chef de Cuisine at One Fifth Avenue. Under the direction of Chef Alfred Portale, Kerry designed the restaurant's signature fish menu. Kerry later became the Executive Chef of the Westbury Hotel's famed Polo Restaurant, training ground of such extraordinary talents as Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.

In 1998, Kerry became the opening Executive Chef and eventually partner at Union Square Hospitality Group's Eleven Madison Park. While at Eleven Madison, Kerry introduced New Yorkers to his elegant signature seasonal cuisine. Under his leadership, the restaurant received accolades from a wide variety of sources, including a tie with Per Se on Zagat Survey's "Top 20 Most Popular Restaurants in New York," The James Beard Foundation's Award for Outstanding Service in America, Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and Esquire Magazine's "Best New Restaurant."

Over the course of his career, Kerry has remained active outside the kitchen with numerous volunteer services, such as cooking for Share Our Strength, Project by Project, City Meals on Wheels, Kids for Kids and both the Central Park and Madison Square Park Conservancies.

An avid saltwater fly fisherman and snowboarder, Kerry is thrilled to find a new home on Central Park South. He will look to the park to serve as both seasonal inspiration and the ideal backdrop for his graceful cuisine.

Peachy Deegan sat down and chatted with Kerry tonight who was highly cordial at the Essex House.

Peachy Deegan: How did you get started in your career and what attracted you to the culinary arts?
Kerry Heffernan: I started at age 15. I was always interested in food, and was lucky enough to have been able to make this my life.

What do you enjoy making the most?

What is the most popular menu item at South Gate?
Seared Tuna Tartare

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
Actually I love that you can be in NYC (Breezy Point Queens) and be flycasting to one of the most exciting species of Pelagic fish that roams the Eastern United States (False Albacore)

What is your favorite shop?
Urban Angler Fly fishing store (after the September Greenmarket I should say)

What is your favorite drink?
Espresso Macchiato

What is your favorite restaurant?

What is your favorite NYC book?
Great Fishing in the 5 boroughs

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
See first question (fishing), really anything with my boys (see the cute ones in the photo above!)

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated would be surfing and how polite and kind New Yorkers are, overrated hmmm, not my place to decry

Cheers and thank yous to Midori who facilitated this feature!

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