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Monday, November 26, 2012

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Bill Knapp, Executive Chef and Owner of Table D'Hote Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

Bill Knapp

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An original New York native, William Knapp hails from Washingtonville, New York in Orange County, first settled in 1731 and historically famous for the Brotherhood Winery established in the early 19th Century. Bill graduated from Washingtonville High School in 1987 and he first worked in a restaurant at Washingtonville’s Ye Old Village Inn which has since closed. Ann Marie, a German woman was the Chef/Owner when Bill began at age 13, and she taught him everything from restaurant etiquette to butchering sides of veal. Bill began by washing dishes at 13 and continued on as a prep cook where he’d make salads. Later, Bill became a waiter and bartender, absorbing much of what there is to be learned by an entrepreneurial family in the hospitality industry. 

Next, as he spent summers in Long Island, starting in 1990 Bill worked for Executive Chef Michael Garfunkel at The Montauk Yacht Club, who was both trained in France and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Bill began as Garde Manger, the next year he was a cook, and the following year he himself began at the CIA as he was so influenced by Garfunkel. Bill graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 1994, and that summer upon his graduation he returned to The Montauk Yacht Club as the Saucier for Michael Garfunkel. 

The following September, Bill secured his first position in Manhattan at The "21" Club as the Entremet, which means vegetable cook for those of you who have not studied cuisine or French! Bill spent two years there and his capabilities advanced to include every station, concluding with Production Saucier where he ordered everything for his station of soups, sauces, and consommes. This is the first position in the line in a French brigade. 

In 1996, Bill had an opportunity to expand his culinary expertise with a different menu and went to work for Ken Aretsky’s Patroon under Executive Chef Frank Dellatrain as the Production Saucier. This opportunity presented a contrasting experience for Bill as Patroon was inaugurating their very first menu and he saw the origination process of a restaurant, which was a singular experience. 

Bryant Park Grill had an opening in early 1998 for the Sous Chef position and this was Bill’s next venture, though brief. Next, Bill had an opportunity presented to him by Tom Colicchio, who was partnered with Danny Meyer at the time at Gramercy Tavern. Tom hired Bill the first day he met him. Bill spent five years there starting as a line cook and advancing to Sous Chef. In 1998, Gramercy Tavern was quite cutting-edge and the philosophy of the venue celebrated American innovation in cuisine coupled with a working strategy encompassing a civilized collaboration among all levels of employees. Bill also learned about and experienced Meyer's philosophy of enlightened hospitality, which stresses the importance of meeting all needs of the guests. 

In the fall of 2003, Bill accepted the position of Chef de Cuisine at Tom Colicchio's Craft Restaurant where he wrote the menu each day. While at Craft, Bill focused on sourcing high-quality purveyors and took advantage of the nearby green market, and maintained Craft's three-star status. After one year, Bill decided to try his hand at private dining and joined the team at Taste Catering on New York's West Side. There he became involved with creating new menu items, tastings, and the execution of new dishes. Working as the Chef and executing parties ranging from six to 1,000 people, he traveled to new and exciting locations from Manhattan apartments to South Hampton estates. After a few years, he was sought after to take the position as Executive Banquet Chef at The Loeb Central Park Boathouse. In this mostly on-premise private event dining room, he focused on menu writing and training the staff. Events included five course dinners, buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, barbecues, lobster bakes, cocktail parties, and some off premise events. Bill spent four years at The Boathouse, planning and saving to open his own restaurant someday. 

On September 9th, 2011, Bill Knapp began his first entrepreneurial venture by re-opening Table d'Hote in New York City, at 44 East 92nd Street. Table D'Hote is among the most elite and coveted culinary destinations of Manhattan's prestigious Upper East side. Reminiscent of a French countryside in ambiance paired with locally sourced ingredients that entice guests to return again and again, Table D'Hote is truly an undiscovered gem to those that have not yet started to frequent this venue. All of this culinary expertise evolved through each experience under other establishments enable Bill to shine at Table D'Hote, both as Executive Chef and as an Entrepreneur. Whether you are indulging in the crabcakes, grass-fed steak or the decadent desserts (the blueberry peach tarte is divine!), Table D'Hote boasts a menu that includes the finest delights to please everyone. By executing great dishes with a seasonally inspired menu and maintaining a subtle ambiance, Bill impresses all that travel from near and far with his extensive diverse New York experience, creative approaches, desire, and passion to sourcing only the best ingredients available to culminate in a truly unparalleled dining experience. Whom You Know has Highly Recommended Table D'Hote:

In addition to being a successful entrepreneur and chef, Bill has a passion for things that go. His interests range from motorcycles to sports cars and as we head into the winter months, snowmobiles, all of which he pursues in Upstate New York. Bill’s parents still live in Washingtonville and also live near Cape Canaveral, Florida in the Winter and both his parents are avid excellent cooks. Bill has one younger sister and two older sisters. We are absolutely thrilled to present Bill Knapp as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Bill for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first culinary memory? 

Bill Knapp: My mom is a baker and made everything homemade from our garden from jams to pies and I always was part of these activities, learning all the steps of what happens from picking a strawberry to it turning into strawberry jam. 

What was your favorite restaurant to work for in New York and what did you enjoy about it? 

Gramercy Tavern because it was a whole new experience from the ground up and I appreciate the attention to detail that was employed right down to using the exact utensil needed to do the job properly. 

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? 

I wanted the freedom to originate and execute the menu I wanted and to amalgamate all the skills I acquired throughout the years of my three-decade career in cuisine. 

Do you have any good stories about interesting clientele you’ve worked with that you’d like to share? 

I’ve had interesting experiences with Whoopi Goldberg, Martha Stewart and Jimmy Fallon. 

What at Table D’Hote are you proudest of and why? 

I’m proud that I opened a restaurant by myself and I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made to make it where it is today. 

What can we look forward to at Table D’Hote? 

I’d like to get more involved in the farm-to-table aspect incorporating a wide array of these local products debuting seasonally on our menu.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 

I’ve learned the most about this business from Tom Colicchio; my style of cooking was inspired by his culinary philosophy. He always aimed to source out the best product and season it with salt and pepper: that’s it. For example, when you have turnips on the menu you want to be able to season them and have their own flavor be the standalone sensory component. 

What are you proudest of and why? 

Owning a successful restaurant in Manhattan. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 

I’d like to create a series of successful small intimate restaurants and oversee each.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 

I was never late at CIA and had perfect attendance and I had an hour commute each way. I enjoyed it! Also we earned 
First place for best storefront in 2011 on Halloween by Carnegie Hill Neighbors Association. 

What one word best describes you and why? 

I’m obsessive compulsive! I look after every last detail and am a perfectionist! 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 

Peter McManus Cafe

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 

New York Honda in Queens is a great place to go for motorcycles, but in Manhattan I like the open air market in Chinatown. 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 

I’d like Mayor Bloomberg to work here and make sure he stays within code!

What is your favorite drink? 

Fanta Limon in Spain 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 

I was with my cousin –we were both working at The Montauk Yacht club and a guest made him laugh so hard he spit out his false teeth and we were outside in a tent looking for them, which we did find.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 

Curry in Hurry on 26th and Lexington

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 

I’m waiting for Table D’Hote to be mentioned in a romantic novel. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 

I’d like be the Mayor of New York and determine the sales tax.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 

I’d like Peter McManus to be named Billy Knapp’s place! It’s my favorite bar. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 

I’ve done a 30k in Central Park in 2 hours and 39 minutes many years ago.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 

Be satisfied eating dinner in a restaurant. 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 

My Nana to explain to her the importance of the food service industry-she hated the industry and if she saw where I was today she’d be super-proud of the decisions I’ve made. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 

The Grateful Dead at Madison Square Garden 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 

Feed people!

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 

Overrated is the friendliness of New Yorkers, especially driving! Dining on the Upper East Side is underrated.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 

Cruising Peachy since I’d like to race my car on the track at Lime Rock Park. 

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 

No but we can run a special here! 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 

I’m very shy and quiet outside the restaurant business.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 

Telephone! 212 348 8125 

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