World Chefs: Santos rides on food-sharing trend

Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:16am EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chris Santos is riding on the current trend of small plates and food sharing at his new restaurant Beauty & Essex in New York.

The restaurant's menu takes a page from its nearby sibling The Stanton Social, which opened in 2005. Both offer Santos' bite-size spins on familiar fares like tacos, pierogies and French onion soups.

The 39-year-old Rhode Island native spoke to Reuters about food sharing, creating menus and his ambitions.

Q: How long did it take you to conceptualize the Beauty & Essex's extensive menu?

A: "I started working on it in June 2009, and we opened in December 2010. I probably cooked and created about 300 different dishes during that process. Once a week I would come up with six to 10 items, spend two days preparing them and present them to my two business partners. We would eat them and have a honest dialogue on whether they are good for the menu. After I went through 300 dishes, I went back to all my notes. There were about 100 to 120 that created strong impressions and I cut them down to 40 to 50."

Q: How does Beauty & Essex fit into this trend of sharing and small plates in New York?

A: "With Stanton Social, it's the whole style we promote -- sharing everything and everyone orders and eats communally with plates in the middle where they share everything. It becomes subconsciously a social experience. I don't know who did that except for traditional tapas restaurants five, six years ago. In Beauty & Essex's menu, the very first words you see are 'start sharing.'"

Q: Why do you think this concept has grown in popularity?   Continued...

<p>Chef Chris Santos is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Melissa Hom/Handout</p>