Equus' New Chef Talks Whimsical Creativity and the Everyday Grind
Tarrytown's 100-plus year-old landmark welcomes Keith Suarino, who has been working in the culinary industry since 15.
Pickled watermelon salad with red and yellow watermelon, cucumber, red onion, crumbled feta and lime-jalapeno vinaigrette.
Rachael Engelhardt/Buzz Creators
The Castle Hotel & Spa has long been a desired destination for weddings, meetings, and weekend getaways for Westchester residents and out-of-town folks alike. Set on sprawling acres of gardens and with a view of the Hudson River, The Castle is the perfect location for dinner, too.
The Castle’s restaurant, Equus, is home to a new chef, Keith Suarino. He joined the staff in May and oversees the entire back-of-the-house operation at the Castle, including Equus restaurant, banquets, room service, General’s Bar, poolside service, as well as Thann Spa.
A native of the Bronx, Suarino, has honed his culinary skills in Manhattan, Miami, and Parma, Italy.
We spent some time to ask him about his background and his plans for the Castle’s new menus.
You have been working in the culinary industry since you were 15. How did you know that this was the industry for you?
I always enjoyed talking to people, and the neighborhood that I grew up in was a hot bed for young kids working in catering, so I got my start there, working at a catering hall in New Rochelle known as the Surf Club. It was there that I began as a busboy, working my way up to banquet captain.
You attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and also studied in Colorno, a municipality within the province of Parma, Italy. What were the most important skills you learned from these experiences?
I would like to think that I gained a bit of an edge when it comes to prioritizing assignments, and developing organizational skills to starting my day.
Some of your influences include Anthony Bourdain, Michael Voltaggio, Grant Achatz, and Sean Brock. Is there a specific culinary style that has influenced you the most?
Some might say that my style is borderline rustic cooking, with some finesse plating, but I prefer to call it whimsical creativity.
Chicken liver mousse with blackberry gelee, pickled hon shimeji mushrooms, toasted almond, micro cilantro and brioche points.
How is your style different from other chefs? Can you talk about how you have given some sous chefs the opportunity to create their own dishes on your new summer menu?
I was never one to baby sit a cook; clearly you are doing this because you want to learn, advance your career, and better yourself both financially, as well as creatively. I like to give my sous chefs the opportunity to come up with their own ideas. Here at the Castle, I tend to let my sous come up with the weekend specials, as well having a few dishes of their own, on the daily menu. This is a way of keeping a young chef or cook engaged, and doesn’t give them a chance to have their wheels stop moving.
Tell me about how you have chosen different suppliers for the food for the Castle?
Good question. Some people might call me old fashioned in the sense that I buy from people I like, as long as the price is appropriate. Currently, I enjoy using Sid Wainer & Sons out of New Bedford, MA.
Do you prefer to work events at the Castle or in the Castle’s restaurant, Equus?
I love the everyday grind of working in a restaurant — it’s a rush like no other. That being said, I do enjoy working banquets as well, because although I began my career in the front of the house, it’s still my first taste of this business, and I hold it very close to my heart
What do you have in mind for future menus at the Castle?
Seasonality is clutch, so I’ve slowly begun to work on the new autumn menu, to come out the first day of fall September 22. As far as ingredients, I’m looking forward to incorporating more game meats into our cuisine, namely venison, wild boar, and quail.
Raspberry and pistachio éclair with raspberry pasty cream, pistachio whipped cream, sugared raspberries, and white chocolate raspberry ice cream.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
I love arugula and fennel.
What's your favorite part of the culinary industry?
Its constant evolution; food, and drink are always changing. It’s one of the only industries, besides fashion I guess you can say, where different cultures give and take from one another to create a fusion of flavors and creativity.
Chef Suarino’s summer menu is available at the Castle now until the first day of fall.
Castle Hotel & Spa
400 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown
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