“Throwback flair, timeless fare,” is how Thomas Aloysius Keller and co. tout the food and atmosphere at his Tak Room restaurant located on the fifth floor of 20 Hudson Yards, the area’s mega shopping complex studded with properties by top toques.
Leading the kitchen team is North Carolina-native Jarrod Huth, who has been with Keller’s restaurant group since 2009 when he started as a dishwasher at The French Laundry; his last position was at Per Se where he was executive sous chef.
Fresh off the holiday season—in which he returned home to Wilmington for a solid 24 hours to cook a turkey dinner for his family—Huth brings forth celebrated continental fare like whole Maine lobster roll with sauce rémoulade tucked into a griddle brioche bun; a pot pie served at lunch; and a classic filet mignon that can be dressed up with a variety of sauces like Béarnaise, horseradish crème fraîche and red wine-shallot reduction.
Here, we get to know the chef behind Keller’s hot spot radiating with old-school glamour.
What do you consider to be your signature dish and why?
At this stage in my career, I feel it is too soon for me to have a signature dish. If I had to pick a signature Tak Room dish, however, the beef Wellington is quickly becoming the most sought after item, as well as the classic Caesar salad prepared tableside and the jumbo lump blue crab cake. Many are also coming at lunch or to eat at the bar to try our new American wagyu cheeseburger.
What is your favorite menu item at Tak Room?
I'm partial to whatever additions to the menu I'm working on that week. For instance, we're working on a dourade (sea bream) that has been deboned and then stuffed with lobster and shingled in brioche Melba's. It's baked whole, then presented and carved for the table. We finish with a Hollandaise sauce flavored with fresh Périgord truffles.
If I'm choosing from our dinner menu, I would have to say the prime beef short rib Wellington served with sauce Périgourdine. The dish is technical and requires a lot of preparation, but when you slice it (and taste it), you get to see where all that time and effort went.
Do you think continental cuisine is making a comeback? Should it?
When we were creating the menu for Tak Room, the idea wasn't to reinvent American cuisine. We simply wanted to pay homage to some of the dishes that we grew up eating by conceptualizing them using ingredients of exceptional quality and modern cooking techniques. I do think that the amplified interaction between our guests and the people cooking or serving the food is something that is gaining traction and can contribute to making a more memorable experience. One of the things we learned very quickly after opening Tak Room was that for the concept and the service to be executed correctly it requires an immense amount of training, and, eventually, trust in the members of your team to take pride in the tableside preparations. It's a tremendous responsibility. There are a few restaurants toying with similar concepts, but I wouldn't say this style of service is necessarily making a comeback. We'll have to wait and see!
What is your favorite side dish and why?
The baked mac 'n' cheese with black truffles. For me it's comfort food, but incorporating the black truffle elevates it and makes it more special.
What are you looking forward to in the New Year?
I am excited to celebrate our first anniversary at Tak Room, when we can take stock and reflect on the year. We're going to play around with some new dishes, while taking inspiration from the classics, and continue to expand on our repertoire.
What has been your greatest lesson of your career?
When I started college, my original plan was to study to become a psychologist. Freshman year my grandfather, whom I have always looked up to and who has always had a great impact on who I am today, wrote me a letter and included a quote by David Frost: "Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."
This quote changed my perspective on my future career path and has guided many of my decisions, including my decision to become a chef. I truly believe that if you are investing in something that you believe in and in something that makes you happy, then you can find success.
Hero image by David Escalante.