“We often say if you’re making something, make it so good that you want to taste it twice,” says Jess Shadbolt, co-head chef of King restaurant in New York City. “You want to go back for a second bite.” Shadbolt runs the kitchen at King with her friend and co-chef Clare de Boer.
“I believe food to be a celebration,” says Shadbolt. “It’s an opportunity to bring people together around a table.”
Shadbolt’s earliest memories of food were spending rainy Saturdays with her mom making jams, breads and cakes. “My grandfather grew all of his own food,” adds de Boer, who says they picked lettuce from the garden to make salads for lunch. “Coming together around the dinner table was the center of every day whether it was lunch or dinner or breakfast.”
The duo first met across the pond in London while working together at the esteemed River Café. “There was like an immediate alliance I felt, and [we] kind of came together over our . . . greed,” says Shadbolt. “We very much, even in that moment, shared a real understanding and kind of belief in what we really kind of appreciated in restaurants.”
King opened in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood in September of 2016, drawing inspiration from Southern France and various regions of Italy. “There is that sense of people coming to King and sharing in Annie [Shi], Clare and my belief,” says Shadbolt.
Annie Shi serves as both general manager and beverage director of the restaurant. “We’re really simple here at King when it comes to the decor, our approach to food, [and] our approach to wine and cocktails.” Shi describes the cooking style of her colleagues as “really pared back and simple in a really generous and warm kind of way.” The menu at King changes daily, incorporating local greenmarket items.
“I think we felt like we were really living on the edge for the first six months,” admits de Boer. “None of us had opened a restaurant before and we didn’t have staff.” She thinks the reason they survived the opening was because of the trio’s strong bond. “There’s a real confidence in numbers,” says Shadbolt. “I think it’s really allowed us to be quite bold and brave in our approach.”
“A lot of people start with a concept, or they start with a cuisine that they really want to showcase,” adds Shi. “I think we started with each other.”
Video and photos shot by Kathryn M. Sheldon, an award-winning producer, photographer and editor with a background in still photography and television production. Having produced food and beverage content for seven years at NBC, she is currently producing video content for the MICHELIN Guide.