He soon migrated to the front of pass, and from there to an alcove along the wall opposite the tasting bar, at the entrance to his dining room.
“I did the pass every day for a year and a half,” Kriss confirmed. “Then I woke up one morning and said to myself, ‘If I get hit by a bus on the way to work today, Alo restaurant closes because no one else can do my job.’”
So he promptly promoted chef de cuisine Nick Bentley to minding the pass and made his new nighttime HQ in that alcove where you find him today—unless he’s downstairs looking in on Aloette, or uptown checking on his latest, Alo Bar Yorkville.
“To grow a company, I can’t be stuck at the pass every day.”
Quite so: all successful chefs eventually arrive at this juncture. What’s remarkable in Kriss’s case is the quality control he has maintained at Alo, where consistency is paramount. The culinary style has stayed emphatically his. Alo cooking is cutting-edge but always restrained (sure, a little sous vide to bring out the best in a luscious off-cut of pork belly, but for deckle of dry-aged beef ribeye, only the fierce, primal, clean and smokeless heat of Binchotan will do). There is never a single ingredient or concept too many on the plate. And while predominantly French, Alo veers more Japanese now than ever.
“I like the Japanese sensibility,” Kriss explains. “I like the lightness and the focus on one ingredient.”
His ideas about how to apply that culinary outlook—or more francophile ones—invariably start with ingredients, be they freshly available according to the customary calendar here or abroad (white asparagus from Provence coming soon), or just something unexpected and newly available—say from Japan, courtesy of his regular supplier True World Foods. From there, maybe an idea will percolate in conversation with his chefs, or while he’s stuck in world-class traffic on the Gardiner Expressway. Then he tells Bentley what he wants, sometimes starting the cooking process himself, sometimes finishing it, and always approving the final result days before it goes live.
“I’m a motivator,” Kriss says. “I keep the guys and girls in the kitchen focused.”
Indeed. And for doing that so convincingly, and for constantly improving Alo even as he launches other projects, we name Patrick Kriss our Outstanding Chef of the Year. — JACOB RICHLER