On Tuesday night, Food & Wine unveiled their ten Best New Chefs for 2011, and among them was hometown hero Joshua Skenes, who launched Saison in 2009 as a one-night-a-week pop-up, and slowly ramped up to three nights, and ultimately five nights a week staring last summer with a newly remodeled dining room in the carriage house and on the patio behind the Stable Café. Grub Street finally got Josh on the phone this a.m., after a very hungover Wednesday and a flight back to California, and he tells us who he threw back some Irish Car Bombs with at the afterparty in New York, and he offers a little advice for young chefs trying to break out on their own.
(See also Kate Krader's recap of the party and aftermath on Food & Wine's blog, and see the excellent company Josh is now keeping among former Bay Area Best New Chefs.)
So how was the party?
It was a blast. They did a phenomenal job. It was in the Bohemian something or other [The Bohemian National Hall]. There was so much going on all day, it's kind of a blur. We went straight from a photo shoot to our hotel rooms to change to the party. It was just a really great experience as a whole, meeting all the other chefs. And the photographer was just fucking ridiculous. Nigel Perry - he was just a riot. Everybody, Dana [Cowin], good times.
Who were you most excited to meet?
I met a lot of people. A lot really awesome people. The whole thing was really exhilarating as a whole. I wound up drinking a lot and hanging out with Carlo [Mirarchi] from Roberta's in Brooklyn, and George Mendes [of Aldea, also on Top Chef Masters this season], along with my girlfriend. We had a great time.
Where did you go afterwards?
Fitzpatrick's I think it was called? We all ended up drinking Irish Car Bombs and needless to say the night was a total mess. When I woke up to go the airport I was still three sheets. [Editor's Note: The person Krader alludes to who won the drinking contest and had a history of winning chugging contests at Club Med was not Skenes. He actually doesn't remember who won.]
Did you know Food & Wine had been sniffing around Saison?
I had no idea. I never saw Dana Cowin in the restaurant or anything. It was a total surprise.
What's your advice for young chefs coming up who don't know how they'll ever break out on their own?
Put your head down and work. Then just fuckin' jump in the water. Wait - let me give you some real advice - pick something genuine you believe in, and make it happen.