Big Chefs Come to Westchester
Lately, more and more high-profile chefs have been making the move to Westchester. New to the list: Manhattan big wig Rick Laakkonen, with just-opened Antipasti in White Plains.
By: Judith Hausman
Glamour invades the suburbs. From Yonkers to Cortlandt Manor, chefs with impressive pedigrees are moving into our sophisticated and well-heeled market. In a spate of six months, Neil Ferguson, a three-star Michelin Chef; Laurent Tourondel, highly rated chef and restauranteur; Peter Kelly, an Iron Chef chef and Rockland County star; and Rick Laakonen, Manhattan big wig, have all moved into town. More than ever, exciting, luxurious cuisine is around the corner.
We lucked out with Kelly; he happened to have been born here. He has finally crossed back over the river. His new X2O Xaviars on the Hudson is located on the historic Yonkers city pier. “For me opening a restaurant in Yonkers is a return to my roots, where my eleven brothers and sisters were all born,” says Kelly. “I am extraordinarily happy to be so well located now in the heart of Westchester County.” Kelly knows Westchester has got the deep pockets and the sophistication that can support a glamorous operation such as X2O.
At Antipasti in White Plains—which opens officially today—chef Rick Laakkonen "feels the energy building in White Plains." He's part of the new buzz; opportunity and money mean an upscale growth market for luxury here. Laakkonen also has faith in Antipasti's owners, Westchester residents and restaurateurs, brothers Mark and Joseph Mazzatta. The team snared Laakkonen by giving him complete creative control and with the possibilities of expansion into other properties as well. "This is my first full-fledged Italian kitchen and I'll be exercising my repertoire with the support of a terrific team." Of Laakkonen, Mark Mazzatta says "He's humble, amazing and the most creative chef around."
Director Tim Gaglio, formerly at the Buddha Bar in Manhattan, brought in Laakkonen, an alum of The River Cafe in Brooklyn and the former chef-owner of Ilo in Manhattan. The 13,000-square-foot restaurant features an antipasti bar and a glass-enclosed room for artisanal salamis and meats, some cured in house. This, the first for this format in Westchester. “We just started a sopressata that will be ready in January,” says Laakkonen. He also pairs fine imported and local honeys with Italian cheeses. Laakkonen says: "Our inviting, sophisticated, diverse format fits our Westchester customer base," that wants a bar scene one evening, casual dining another and romantic meals as well.
At Monteverde at Oldstone, “Perfect timing had a lot to do with chef Neil Ferguson coming to Westchester County and Monteverde,” says director Glenn Vogt. Ferguson worked with Gordon Ramsay, the high profile British chef who recently opened Gordon Ramsay at the London in Manhattan, and is now both the executive chef at Monteverde and also oversees the kitchen at the new and highly touted Allen and Delancey, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Westchester can appreciate Ferguson's three-star Michelin training in France and Britain, which shows up in dishes such as his magret of duck, pumpkin veloute, Hudson Valley foie gras and line-caught fluke.
As luck would have it, Ferguson fell in love with the Hudson River. Both the beauty and convenience of our county helped seal the deal. "I invited him up to Monteverde for brunch and he was really taken by the beauty of the Hudson Valley and the Monteverde property. The fact that it is less than an hour from the city enables him to start his day in one restaurant and end it in the other. Neil has done an amazing job," adds Vogt. The spectacular view of green lawns down to the Hudson adds to the appeal of Ferguson's sumptuous, seasonal cuisine.
Laurent Tourondel will open the seventh of his sleek steakhouses, BLT Steak, in White Plains, his first in a suburban location. Tourondel comments, "I feel that the potential for private events and celebrations in Westchester will exceed that of our already successful private dining programs at our other restaurants." The restaurant's private dining room can seat parties of 20 and the patio allows for 40 guests.
Many Westchester diners have tried BLT in Manhattan so even the similar elegant lighting and rich brown and tan materials, such as suede, ebony and walnut will be familiar. The luxurious Ritz-Carlton “should set a new standard of luxury for hotels in that market,” says Tourondel. His menu is both traditional and modern; we'll be tucking into oysters, Dover sole and lobsters, Porterhouse and hanger steaks, accompanied by choices of sauce (three mustards, béarnaise) and sides (roasted tomatoes, onion rings and gnocchi).
"I am very excited to open BLT Steak in White Plains this December. It will be our first suburban location and will be situated in a beautiful new property that should set a new standard of luxury for hotels in that market. I also feel that the potential for private events and celebrations in Westchester will exceed that of our already successful private dining programs at our other restaurants.
"So many people who have visited BLT in New York City work in the city and live in the Westchester area. We are happy to be able to offer them a BLT option closer to home."
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