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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - American chef Todd English has opened his interpretation of the European food halls at the historic Plaza Hotel in New York, with an array of offerings from sushi to panini.
The 49-year-old chef, who cites London's luxury department store Harrods as inspiration, said The Plaza Food Hall allows diners buy fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and seafood and to taste dishes made with them.
English spoke to Reuters about his love for foreign markets and where he camps out at a restaurant.
Q: Why were you interested in this project?
A: "When I travel, I love going to markets especially in Europe, South America and Asia. You get a sense of what the country is about, what the community is about. Most of the food stalls are where workers eat, where farmers eat. It indicates what's local, what's fresh and the food of that community so you get a sense what that culture is about."
Q: You are regarded a fine-dining chef. Would people see this as a change in direction for you?
A: "Just because you sit at a counter, it doesn't mean you can't eat gourmet food and really fresh and well prepared dishes. With where the economy is it offers people many options within a space. It's just a fun way to eat. When I go to check out restaurants in the city, I like sitting at the bar."
Q: Are there special considerations in creating the Food Hall in a landmark hotel?
A: "I want it to be somewhat fashionable or chic, what I think the hotel reflects and what a lot of markets in Europe suggest. The elegance of the hotel is certainly reflected in the Food Hall. I want to have a certain boutique feel to it, but I also want to keep the prices reasonable."
Q: You think this will type of restaurant will become popular here?
A: "I think this is a trend that will stay. I think market-style eating will become part of our lives like it is in Europe. You may not necessarily just see it just in hotels, you may see it in department stores, maybe food courts will change more to this kind of thing."
Plaza Burger (Serves 2)
Two 8-ounce pieces American Kobe Burger (available through specialty groceries)
1/4 cup fried onion
6 pieces of pre-cooked bacon
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup of stored prepared BBQ sauce
2 pieces of brioche
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 plum tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit. To prepare the tomatoes for roasting, core and cut both in half, lengthwise. Toss the tomatoes with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and season well with salt and fresh ground pepper. Once the oven is at 400 degrees, roast cut-side down on a small rack for 20-25 minutes. When the skins of the tomatoes begin to blister, remove from the oven, and let them cool to room temperature. Reserve for later use.
2. Season the burger meat generously with salt and fresh ground pepper, and grill to desired temperature. When the burgers are close to done, top the burger with the Gorgonzola and warm the pre-cooked bacon on the grill.
3. While the Gorgonzola melts, gently toast the brioche so it is warm for the burger. To assemble, place the burger with melted gorgonzola on the toasted brioche bun. Top the burger with BBQ sauce, fried onion, bacon, roasted tomatoes, and finally the top of the brioche. Serve with your favorite pickles and French fries.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney