Chef John Poiarkoff Joins Restaurant North
While we were all sneaking off over Labor Day weekend to savor our last licks of summer, big news was brewing at Restaurant North. Owner Stephen Paul Mancini snagged Chef John Poiarkoff, who will step in as North’s executive chef. He is replacing Matt Casino, who inherited the role after four-times James Beard Award–nominated opening partner Chef Eric Gabrynowicz left the group last fall.
Poiarkoff is coming in on a career path that took him fresh out of culinary school to Danny Meyer’s The Modern. From there, Poiarkoff landed in tiny farm-to-table restaurant in Gowanus, Brooklyn, called The Pines, where he was rapidly shortlisted as a “Young Gun” by the influential dining website, Eater. Of Poiarkoff’s work at The Pines, Meyer told Eater, “When he left The Modern, everybody was so sad to see him go, because he has the whole package, just a great guy, amazing cook .... When you go to The Pines you’ll see he’s doing cooking that is intellectual and soul-satisfying at the same time. You usually get one or the other, but it’s rare to get both.” Poiarkoff’s work at The Pines received praise from other food world luminaries, most notably Alinea’s Grant Achatz.
After those successes, the team behind The Pines opened Willow in Bed-Stuy with Poiarkoff at the helm. Critics praised dishes like potato and oxtail pierogi that evoked Poiarkoff’s Russian heritage, and carefully sourced meats that Poiarkoff spun into charcuterie or cured and aged in-house. Despite overwhelming critical praise for Poiarkoff’s cooking, Willow closed last summer. This left Poiarkoff a free agent until Mancini and company stepped in.
Upon Casino’s sudden departure this past July, Mancini and Restaurant North were left in crisis: Without a chef, North remained closed for the past six weeks while the team hunted for a replacement. They held multiple tastings (chef try-outs) looking for a good fit. Poiarkoff’s tasting was the one that stood out.
Says Mancini, “His food was extraordinary; it was super, super, super smart without being pretentious. Well thought out. Approachable. I was taken aback by his food, but, also, I was taken aback by his character. He’s a very level-headed intellectual, and he carries himself extremely well—but I guess the benchmark thing is that, three days later, the dishwasher was still talking about his food.”
Both Mancini and Poiarkoff come with Danny Meyer pedigrees; also, Poiarkoff’s farm-to-table sourcing at both The Pines and Willow matches the ethos of Slow Food Snail approved Restaurant North. That said, the acquisition of Poiarkoff was no walk in the park: “We had to have a pretty significant negotiation process because of his talent. We had to figure out ways to structure his contract with the group, but we were able to solidify all that about a week or two ago. Now he’s transitioning himself out of Brooklyn and coming up to Armonk full time.”
Poiarkoff is looking forward to taking his place at Restaurant North, even though it means moving out of Brooklyn, the epicenter of hip. (In this, he’s not alone—check out our feature, “The New Bohemians”) “I thought that, with the team they have in place, and the acclaim they have already—and the philosophies they’ve had for the past eight years—it seemed like a great fit,” he says. Poiarkoff plans to honor Restaurant North’s established relationships with local and Hudson Valley farmers, and even expand them with his own relationships among local growers.
Restaurant North will hold a series of pop-ups and other events to introduce Poiarkoff to Westchester. Follow Restaurant North on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more news and announcements.