Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Push Project V: The Art Of Masa with Rick Bayless

“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I read Rick Bayless’ books daily before opening Empellón. Whenever I got down about sthe perception challenges associated with Mexican cuisine in a city as cosmopolitan as New York, I drew inspiration from his work and the adversity he must’ve faced opening Frontera Grill nearly thirty years ago. Instead of opening forty more of them all over the world, which he undeniably could have done, he grew within the same building, refusing to compromise the integrity and soul of Mexican cooking. I hold Rick Bayless as a personal role model.” 
-Alex Stupak
Started in 2013, the Push Project series of collaborative dinner events have brought some of North America’s best chefs—Grant Achatz, Chris Cosentino, Jordan Kahn, and Enrique Olvera—to cook memorable and inventive multiple course meals alongside Alex Stupak at Empellón Cocina.
For the fifth installment, themed “The Art Of Masa,” we’re honored to have Rick Bayless, the chef and restaurateur behind Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Toplobampo. A six-time James Beard Award winner, Emmy-nominated television host, and New York Timesbestselling cookbook author, he’s been a tireless pioneer in sharing Mexican cooking with America through multiple mediums. Type the name of any Mexican dish into Google and rest assured Bayless already has a recipe and a video about it. 
For Push Project V: The Art Of Masa, Chefs Bayless and Stupak will unite for an eight-course dinner on Thursday, November 13th at Empellón Cocina (105 1st Avenue between 6th & 7th St). Reservations for this one-night-only event are $175 per person, inclusive of food and beverage (taxes and gratuity not included). Seatings before and after 8:00PM are now available and limited to parties of 2, 4 and 6.
To request your table, please fill out the form here. Please note that space is limited and no inquiry is secured until the reservations department contacts you to confirm your time and a credit card form is submitted for pre-payment. 
Reservation inquiries for this event are now closed.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013

Push IV Friday night: Few Tables Available…

For those who missed the first night of Push Project IV with Grant Achatz and Alex Stupak, we have extended Push for one more night.  At this time, we have a few tables available that can accommodate 4 guests or more (sorry, no more 2-tops).  These will be given out to the first few parties that email us to priority@empellon.com.  See you soon!


 Photo by Daniel Krieger

Monday, November 4, 2013

PushIV extended to Friday night this week

"I just wrapped up a phone call with Chef Achatz to discuss our upcoming dinner this Thursday.

It was our last chance to do a preliminary gut check on whether we are ready to execute a collection of dishes neither of us have ever made before, in a restaurant that isn’t exactly built for it.

We quickly discussed our mise en place to make certain everything will be there to create our collaborative iteration of an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, and then the conversation started to go in a different direction.

Grant reminded me that I started this series of dinners to push my restaurant beyond its limits. To that point, if we both feel completely prepared for Thursday night than perhaps we are not pushing ourselves quite hard enough. 

We have decided to execute a second dinner on Friday night, but we are not going to repeat the same theme. With a mutual belief that sometimes great stuff can be born from a bit of anarchy, we are going to create a second, spontaneous menu. We have no agenda other than to huddle up with our team after Thursday’s service, jot down some ideas and then rush to make them a reality the very next day. 

I can’t back down from a challenge from my old boss, so here we go.”
-Alex Stupak

PushIV -  Night 2, Friday Nov 8th, 2013
Empellon Cocina, 105 1st Ave
$325 per person, including food & beverage, tax & gratuity

Availability is extremely limited.  Please fill out the form here

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Menu & Inspiration: Push IV

When I approached Chef Achatz to cook with us, his first question was, “What are we going to make?”

I hadn’t thought the whole thing through at all.

We discussed the idea of reproducing dishes from year one at Alinea and we both agreed that this was a natural and obvious choice… so, naturally, we decided to avoid that completely.  

We’ve learned that injecting familiarity is one of the best ways to explore new ideas.  We wanted to tug at heartstrings and work within a concept for which we all have a reference point.

For the Push Project IV we are excited to present…

Thanksgiving Dinner


5 Bites – crudité, herring, heart, skin, walnut

Parker House Rolls

Roasted Carrots

White Meat


Kabocha Cornucopia

Venison Rib

Dark Meat


Fruits and Barley

Apple Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Sweet Potato Marshmallow

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Push Project IV with Grant Achatz & Alex Stupak


In 2013 at Empellón Cocina, we promised ourselves that we would carry out 4 collaborative dinners in order to enhance our perspective and deepen our motivation.

The first three dinners were incredible. Enrique Olvera, Jordan Kahn and Chris Cosentino all threw down in our kitchen and they have all left a permanent impression on the team.

It feels like the last dinner of the year has to be extra special.

We thought that it would be appropriate to ask someone to join us in the kitchen that is a model for everything we hope to achieve for our own restaurants one day.

With an admiration for his consistent and ever-evolving creative trajectory, we are excited to welcome Chef Grant Achatz on November 7th for Push Project IV.

We will offer a 12 course dinner with beverage pairing for $325 per person. This is inclusive of all food, drinks, taxes and gratuity.

We are accepting reservations between the hours of 6 and 9:30 PM on the hour and every half hour.  Seating is limited and are only accepting parties of 2, 4 and 6 (no odd numbers).  

Please click on the form here and fill out the required fields.  Our reservations department will reply in a first come, first serve basis.  Or, simply call 212 367 0999.

No inquiry is secured until the reservations department confirms your time and you submit a credit card for payment.   There will be no cancellations or refunds.

Location: Empellon Cocina, 105 1st Ave, btw 6th & 7th Streets

Monday, July 1, 2013

Alex Stupak and Chris Cosentino on Connecting via Twitter, New Restaurants, and Raw Tripe -- Grub Street New York

Stupak and Cosentino, getting ready for their collaborative dinner.

Stupak and Cosentino, getting ready for their collaborative dinner.Photo: Melissa Hom

Before Incanto's Chris Cosentino stepped into Alex Stupak's kitchen for the Push Project, he worried he'd be like a “bull in a china shop.” After all, Cosentino proudly calls himself a “fucking caveman,” and is famous for his nose-to-tail cooking philosophy and focus on offal. So how did he jive with Stupak, an Alinea-trained former pastry chef who’s admittedly neurotic? Pretty well, as it turns out. They collaborated on eight meaty courses for Friday’s one-off dinner, including tripe crudo with lobster, duck pozole,chorizo cavatelli, and oxtail topped with foie gras. Grub sat down with Stupak and Cosentino pre-dinner and chatted about their similar upbringings, differing approaches to cooking, and what they’ve learned from each other.

You two first connected over Twitter. When did you begin making plans for this dinner?
Alex Stupak: I blasted out a message asking anyone who knew where pipichia [a Mexcian herb] was to holler at me. And Chris said, “I’ve got some and I’ll be in New York in three days.” It was very nice. He brought some over.
Chris Cosentino: Twenty-four bunches! I just showed up in the kitchen with a little ice pack. I think Alex thought I was kidding at first. I sat down for dinner with Alex, and we had some drinks, and then it rolled from there. It’s been a year in the making.

Knowing — and liking — each other personally, were you nervous that your cooking styles might not mesh?
CC: I knew that Alex was hypertechnical. I don’t like saying, “molecular” or “modern.” For me, that was a little daunting to come here. I’m basically a fucking caveman. I’m old-school in the way I cook. I like to cook simply. The guys in his kitchen were laughing at me because I don’t want little petals. I want food broken and torn.
AS: They’re used to my neuroses.
CC: It’s different styles of neurosis. I’m a firm believer in rustic cooking — and rustic doesn’t mean sloppy. That was my biggest concern: How were we going to be able to integrate our styles so that it’s cohesive and makes sense? So you’re basically going to let a bull in the china shop?

Push Project

Cosentino in Stupak’s kitchen.Photo: Melissa Hom

And how have you been getting along in the kitchen?
CC: We’re both from New England. That’s a big deal, because I grew up the same way Alex grew up, which is: You say it like you see it. We may not like the answer from each other sometimes, but at least it’s honest, and we know where we stand and can just move forward. I’d rather hear it flat-out.
AS: The dinner is a side effect: We’re truly doing this for selfish purposes. My cooks right now are psyched. We’re looking at a different mentality, thought process, and approach to cooking. The qualities I like about Chris and his restaurant are that he’s super tied to the farmers and what’s local. He knows all of their names. I aspire to be like that, but I’m not there. By bringing me in, it reminds me that it’s a muscle I need to learn how to flex. 
CC: When you say that you bring me in to show something different, it’s the same thing I try to do with my staff every day. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re learning. Today, Alex taught me how to do something that I’ve wanted to figure out for five to six years. I always wanted to learn how to make warm panna cotta.

But you’ve conquered panna cotta with blood!
CC: I have. But it’s cold. I’ve never done warm panna cotta. It’s a technique that’s alluded me. What is the binding agent? Alex and I talked about it a couple of weeks ago, and boom! Now, I see because of the techniques that Alex has mastered. I look at pastries, which is Alex’s background, as a science … I take food from a looser approach. Is it delicious? Is it beautiful? There’s a place for all of us in this business for different styles and techniques. And if we can’t learn from each other, we’re just arrogant and ignorant. Coming here has been a huge eye-opener for me.

Push Project

The two chefs at work.Photo: Melissa Hom

What was the first dish you chose for the menu? 
CC: The dinner includes a lot of food that people aren’t familiar with, and some will find the flavor combinations to be bizarre. But they’re also classic. We’re doing beef and lobster, a classic surf-and-turf, except it’s not tenderloin and lobster tail; it’s raw tripe and lobster tail. We twist classics and give people a new experience within that same realm.
AS: We banged out the menu within 90 percent accuracy that day when we filmed the Push Project video. New England was something we wanted to touch upon, as well as Mexico. We also wanted to hit on techniques that we both wanted to learn, which for me, was the mino. I’ve worked with tripe, but I’ve only worked with tripe one way, the way everyone works with it: You hammer it. You simmer it in a pot forever and ever, and then you try to cover up the flavor of it in a tomato- or chile-based sauce. Chris knew a technique for raw tripe. We’re used to honeycomb tripe, but this is mino, which is Japanese for first stomach.
CC: It’s a thick, strong muscle. If I told you it was tripe, you wouldn’t know from looking at the appearance. It looks like chicken breast. It can be eaten raw when it’s handled properly.

Push Project

Tripe only looks like chicken.Photo: Melissa Hom

So how did you learn to handle tripe?
CC: I had a couple of conversations with chef Takashi [that Takashi]. He told me where to purchase the product. I had it when I was in Japan last year, and I watched how they prepared it. I confirmed the information I saw in Japan with Takashi, and he said, You figured it out on your own!

"Crazy water" is on the menu, too. What is that?
CC: In Italy, there’s a dish called Acqua Pazza, which translates to “crazy water.” Fisherman would cook seafood in ocean water, and add tomatoes, olives, chiles, and oregano. We’re emulating crazy water without using the Hudson. It’s crystal clear, but hyperflavorful. 
AS: He wanted to work with bluefish and ingredients he can’t get in California. Foie gras is covered. Lobster, clams.
CC: We’re going to serve a Narragansett beer tonight because when I was a little boy, my dad used to drink it. Bluefish was fished outside of my house growing up, and I can’t get it in California. Lobsters cost four times as much in California. And we were able to specify female lobsters. I’m getting to play with the things I grew up with.

Push Project

Of course chefs who grew up in New Englad will serve lobster.Photo: Melissa Hom

Speaking of family: Alex, your dad’s in the kitchen today.
AS: I grew up in a house where my dad did all the cooking. My grandfather was a chef, and my dad grew up in restaurants. He was psyched for this dinner, and I asked him to help out in the kitchen because he’s much happier keeping his hands busy.
CC: He’s so excited about it! It’s really fun. He’s digging it. He’s not afraid.

Push Project

Stupak’s father.Photo: Melissa Hom

This is your third collaborative dinner. What are your upcoming plans for the Push Project?
AS: The fourth dinner will be later in the year. We said we’d do this quarterly, and now we have to do it. It’s important for us to not only push ourselves, but take a look at someone else’s body of work four times a year. We think it’s a healthy, intelligible way to grow. That has to be just as important as everything else we do, whether it’s opening on time or making sure your bathrooms are clean. It becomes part of operations. Even if I said that I can’t afford it or don’t feel like it, I don’t have a choice now. I’d look like a jerk to my entire company.

Push Project

Dehydrated duck tongues.Photo: Melissa Hom

You’ve mentioned that you’re thinking about a third restaurant with corn tortillas, too.
AS: It’s very preliminary. If I said, “I have an Italian restaurant in New York City,” what does that mean? That can mean anything, and that’s a really good thing. It could be a restaurant that’s gotten four stars from the Times, a place that focuses on Italian-American cooking, or a pizza place that focuses on one style of pizza. It could be all those things under the umbrella of Italian. When you say, “I have a Mexican restaurant,” it’s unspoken, but it means you’re going to have guacamole, a margarita, and some tacos. We certainly serve all those things at the first two Empellóns, but my dream is that maybe one day we could do a place that just serves tacos al pastor. Or just Oaxacan cuisine — not Mexican cuisine, because there’s really no such thing.

I’d like to do a third restaurant, and I’d like it to be rooted in one of the most important and unique ingredients in Mexican cooking: masa. At Taqueria, I love our tortillas, but they’re flour. In Mexico, flour tortillas are not nearly as prevalent as corn tortillas. It happened by accident. I leap before I look, and I was very ignorant to what it would take to produce corn at the level we wanted. Now that I know, I think that this third restaurant is going to be built around that. Make a place that processes masa first, and then you better use it in just about everything — which is how it is in Mexico. It’d be much more about reflection, rather than ego, or trying to change the way people look at Mexican cuisine.

In Mexican cooking right now, you have the traditionalists on one side, who say, “This is how it is in Mexico, and if it’s not done to the letter, it’s garbage.” And then you have people who like nachos and East-L.A.-style burritos. I like them both, and I like everything in between, too. I think Empellón, someday, with some hard work, could be all those things.