Chef Andrew Chase Interview

The Sign of The Dove is one of New York's most exclusive restaurants. Its very name stands for excellence.

Serving as Chef de Cuisine at the Sign of The Dove is Andrew Chase.

We spoke with Chef Chase recently about the inner workings of the Sign of The Dove and his rise to the top in the restaurant business.

Q. Did you always want to be in the restaurant business?
A. No, not at all. In undergraduate school I had a B.A. in Social Work. Before I went to graduate school I decided to take a little bit of time off. In my time off, I started working for a family friend. My brother's a contractor and I had started to do building renovations with the aim of buying a building with this person. In one of the buildings that he owned, he had a small bar and he wanted to turn it into a restaurant. So then I sort of went off on a tangent and we were gonna open a restaurant together. So I took a course at the New School in restaurant management and cooking. It was a short course. I realized when I took that course that I really wanted to be a cook. That was in 1985, 12 years ago.

Q. What didn't you like about restaurant management?
A. It wasn't that I didn't like the management part; it's just that I realized that I had a feel for and a taste for cooking. I realized it was something I could be good at. I just absolutely fell in love with it and I wanted to really be good at it. I set out to try and work in places that could really broaden my experience and give me skills that I needed. I was very attracted to French food. My second job in the city was at a restaurant called Le Cygne. It was a very classical French house that went for like a 20 year run in New York City. It was one of the old school places. I stayed there for about two and a half years. On one of my first vacations I went to France and realized I really wanted to work there. So through them they arranged for me to go to France to work for a year.

Q. So French food is your specialty?
A. I like to cook anything, but I think we all use French technique. But, I really feel comfortable with those flavors. I think most people really love those flavors and there are things you can eat all the time. I don't have an interest in really shocking people with the food. When people say how do you describe your cooking it’s a little hard. What I would say is that we use classical flavors, classical French with an American influence. What I mean by American influence is; we're much more comfortable in using ingredients from this country and other cuisines, but in doing essentially classical preparations.

Q. What exactly does your job entail at the Sign of The Dove? What does Chef de Cuisine mean?
A. Chef de Cuisine means that you are literally the Chef of the kitchen. It basically means all the responsibilities of the kitchen from hiring staff, to training staff, to you feel your dishes are so important the way they are and they have to be the way you planned them that I think you have the misguided notion that unless it's prepared the way you like it, the customer is not getting the best they can have. But, many customers have a very specific idea of what they do want and you may not be servicing that cuisine. If they happen to be in your restaurant that night you have to give them what they want. Yes, many people are open and they're there to try your cuisine exactly the way you prepare it, but, if people come in, and they want red sauce on your artichoke tortellini with morels, which a customer wanted the other night, then that's what you serve them, whether you think the dish works that way or not.

Q. Do you get a lot of celebrities at The Sign of The Dove?
A. We get a lot of celebrities.

Q. Are you able to name names or is that against policy?
A. It's always exciting to find out your cooking for Racquel Welch which we did the other night. Who's the producer she's with, Blake Edwards? They were in the other night. That's exciting. It's fun for the cooks. We don't see them, but, it's fun to find out.

Q. What do you mean you don't see them? Do the waiters tell you?
A. Oh yeah.

Q. So you'd never come out and say hello?
A. Oh, no. Never. Once again, you don't want to disrupt the diner’s experience. We do the same thing we do for all the other customers and that's try to make sure they have wonderful food and then we leave it up to the service staff to do the rest. We have wonderful service. I mean, it's not the same as in a small town where you never see these people. You see these people on the street. We did an event yesterday where we saw a lot of people. One of them was Racquel Welch and there were many, many others. You do see the people but it is a thrill sometimes to cook for them. We make sure they have wonderful food. That's the rush for us.

Q. Is it your ambition to one day own your own restaurant?
A. Not necessarily. I just couldn't tell you for sure, I don't know yet. There's so much involved. It was much more my ambition when I started. Now, that I know the business more it's a huge, huge responsibility and commitment, well above and beyond what I do right now.

Q. You mean if you owned the restaurant you'd have to put in even more hours?
A. Well, I don't know how you could. I guess it would really be a 24 hour commitment, rather than a 12 or 14 hour commitment. It would really have to be the right situation and that hasn't come up yet. I think it's gonna be one of those things that will present itself if it happens, and then I'll make that decision.

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