Kevin Adey of North East Kingdom talks of his time at Le Bernardin and shares his Eric Ripert watch story

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Kevin Adey of Northeast Kingdom has been one of the few chefs leading the charge for good dining in Bushwick, a neighborhood in the northeast part of Brooklyn, and has been doing so for the last 4 years. Yet, prior to becoming the head chef at Northeast Kingdom, he did time in some of the best kitchens in the country including a stage at Alinea in Chicago and a little over a year in the kitchen of three Michelin Star, Le Bernadin in Manhattan. When we interviewed Kevin for the book he told us a great story about Eric Ripert, the head chef, that didn't quite fit in the book, but it was too good to pass up, so we decided to share it with you here.

At Northeast Kingdom, Kevin cooks fully dedicated to a whole animal philosophy. Each week getting a full pig, goat and quarter cow, and cooking with what they have, changing the menu daily to not waste anything. This is a far cry from the quest for perfection style cooking at Le Bernadin. There they will trim a huge fish down to just the perfect piece.  Kevin says “I knew the third day [at Le Bernadin] this isn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.” However, even though Kevin has his own philosophy in cooking, he still thinks fondly of the 15 months he spent there as a cook, saying “It was a real eye opening going from one of the "best places in Florida" to working at a three-star Michelin restaurant and learning the differences between right and wrong and good and bad.”

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When asked about head chef Eric Ripert, you can hear the excitement and respect in Kevin’s voice , “he is the greatest man. He is an excellent teacher and an excellent chef… I think he might like eating more than cooking. I have never seen a chef eat more voraciously. He will eat your entire thing of mise en place. You have to hide your food from him because he will come and eat a nice handful of hearts of palm, and you will have to redo them all.

Le Bernadin is the second largest three Michelin star restaurant in the world.  They will often do 300+ covers a night, and to turn food of that quality in that quantity takes and army of talented chefs. On average there are 10 chefs there, combined with about another 40 cooks on the line. “The biggest place I had ever cooked before this had three line cooks at once. This place on the line would have twelve line cooks and five chefs, the Chef de Cuisine and the Exec Sous, and that didn't count the fifteen dishwashers and the whole team in pastry.” He compares that to his time at Alinea that on a busy night will do 85 covers and with an even larger kitchen staff. “You are busy from the moment you get there until the moment you leave.”

Eric, who is in the kitchen most nights usually isn't running the pass, but Kevin says “He is very hands on. He goes through everything and checks for Mise en Place, he checks your knives, he talks to you. “ Kevin has staged in other famous kitchens, but he said here was the first place where once in awhile he would end up cooking side by side next to the head chef.

Kevin told us the tale of the first time he met Eric and it was so good we asked if we could share it with you-

I was working, it was my first day and I’m peeling baby carrots. I’m working neat, clean and as proper as I can and I see him out of the corner of my eye come walking down the kitchen. He was like 30 feet away from me and I go back to peeling the carrots. I'm excited to be there, I'm excited to work for him, but I'm not going to oogle over the guy, I'm just there to cut the carrots. So out of nowhere he grabs my fucking arm and I thought he was going to throw me out of the kitchen. He is holding my hand above my head, and he looks at me and goes “What is your name?” I say my name is Kevin Adey, chef, nice to meet you. He is turning my arm and I don't know what to say. He is physically grabbing me and he says “This is a nice watch.” I’m like, what? “This is a nice watch, where did you get it?” It’s a $60 watch and he is wearing a Rolex. He has still got me by the arm. “This is a nice watch, where did you get it?” My wife got it for me chef. “Your wife huh? She must be a very smart woman.” I reply, well she married a guy who can cook and dance, and he goes “Maybe she just wants you to be on time.” Then throws my arm back at me and walks away. This is my first forty five seconds I’m working at the place and this is my interaction with a guy who is a legend.

“This is a nice watch.” I’m like, what? “This is a nice watch, where did you get it?” It’s a $60 watch and he is wearing a Rolex. 

Kevin says his time at Le Bernadin was the best thing he could have done as a new chef moving to New York and the next time you get adventurous and take the take the L train out to the Jefferson stop in Brooklyn, you should stop into Northeast Kingdom. The restaurant might be smaller than Le Bernadin’s kitchen, and the plates might be from Ikea but you can see that Kevin has definitely learned the right way of doing things. Kevin and his small team there are turning out refined comfort food that does not disappoint.

Learn more about Kevin and Northeast Kingdom at: http://www.north-eastkingdom.com/