Checking In With David Burke

Chef David Burke (Photos by Steve Mosco)

The Garden City Hotel’s reputation for pure luxury has been going strong for an impressive 145 years. And this past spring, the venerable hotel recruited a world-renowned innovative chef to elevate its dining experience to new, dynamically flavorful heights.

Chef David Burke, who has helmed some of New York City’s top restaurants over the span of his 35-year career, which also includes appearances on Top Chef Masters and an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, opened two new restaurants at the hotel, King Bar and Red Salt Room—with King Bar featuring new American cuisine in an upscale lounge setting and Red Salt Room showcasing the chef’s whimsical approach to regional and seasonal dishes.
Besides being open for guests of the hotel, the restaurants also welcome walk-ins in an effort to spread the culinary message of Burke, a message that encompasses all that is pure and joyful in dining. The Port Washington News Magazine recently sat down with the chef for a serving of his culinary process.

Q What made you decide to join the Garden City Hotel?

A I have always been attracted to the Garden City Hotel because of its history and great reputation for quality. After visiting and realizing how strong the infrastructure and the quality of the employees were, I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring the David Burke philosophy to the hotel. The fact that the executive chef, Ari Nieminen, and I worked together at the River Café gave it more synergy to seal the deal.

Q What was your main goal when creating the menu? What was your inspiration in curating the dining experience?

A The main goal was to offer a quality product with the David Burke creativity utilizing as much as we could from the local bounty of Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. Also to give the local clientele a couple of different dining options; to enjoy a great higher-end dining experience at Red Salt Room; to experience a more casual setting with the same quality of food and smaller plates at King Bar without having to make reservations; to dine outside at Patio Bar. My inspiration is to create a dining experience that is unlike any other on Long Island, balancing high quality, creative and seasonal foods.

Q What can eaters expect when they sit down for a meal?

A They can expect to be treated well by our great management staff, while eating great quality food, in an enjoyable atmosphere.

Q What are some of the challenges in creating menus? Is there a chef’s version of writer’s block?

A I typically will take a break with some rest and review my cookbook or my art book collection for inspiration.

Q What’s your personality like in the kitchen?

A It is professional, but normally I am upbeat and have a mentoring personality with a dose of prankster for good measure, but it is typically all business. I can be very intense with my game face on. I refer to how a coach teaches a professional sports team.

Q What’s the hardest part about transferring your culinary vision to your kitchen staff?

A Being patient during the training process to make sure they understand the vision and why we put certain ingredients together in harmony to create a dish. Every ingredient has a purpose. The presentation of a dish is also a very important aspect in training.

Q Where does your passion for cooking stem from?

A The passion for creativity fuels my craftsmanship and desire to continue to create and build dishes, restaurants and innovate.

Slow roasted chicken is served over local corn and sweet pea risotto.

Q What is your favorite meal to cook for others?

A Family style foods, like whole roasted fish and or birds. Big platters of food. But generally speaking, Thanksgiving is one of the best holiday meals I enjoy cooking.

Q What is your “last meal”?

A A wild mushroom fresh truffle cappuccino as a soup. Lobster scrambled eggs with caviar served with fisherman’s toast. Then a dry-aged sirloin with red wine poached eggs and candied bacon. I will finish with a flaming butterscotch ice cream sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce, gold leaf and caramelized bananas. Finished with a cheese cake lollipop, bubblegum whipped cream and a personalized fortune cookie that only I get to read.

The Garden City Hotel, 45 Seventh Street, Garden City; 516-747-3000;

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Steve Mosco, former editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, is a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.


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