Chef-owner Tyler Kord of Brooklyn restaurant No. 7 and I we were swapping emails a couple weeks ago when he wrote the following: “So, spring is a chef bummer.” Oh no he didn’t! It’s no secret that, just around the time they cut down the nets at the NCAA tournament, chefs start to freak the flip out at the first signs of local produce breaking through the soil. In cities, chefs cab over to the greenmarket to survey the season’s bounty—plucking sacks of baby carrots, fava beans, watercress, and green garlic with particular aggression. Other restaurants dial up their local farms and purveyors begging for an early piece of the action.

Jonathan Benno of New York’s Lincoln told me a story about a two-toothed guy from West Virginia who drives up shipments of ramps twice a week in early spring. Benno—a disciple of Thomas Keller’s brand of extreme locavorism—seemed a bit frustrated that those particular ramps had yet to hit his menu. Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony says he will get sick of ramps “sometime in June.” So what is Kord—an accomplished chef himself who worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry Street before opening No.7 in Fort Greene and No. 7 Sub Shop in Manhattan’s Ace Hotel—talking about? We sought out some clarification…

So you’re not a fresh pasta with English peas and ramps kind of guy…
Everybody, every year is like “it’s springtime, it’s the fucking best time of year to be a chef” and, really, that bums me out. It’s all about grocery shopping, which I am not that into. Across the board I have always preferred the idea of buying inexpensive ingredients. I’ve always been more French than Italian, meaning rather than buying the nicest possible thing and putting it on a plate and serving it, I would rather buy the cheapest bullshit possible and manipulate it to a point that it transcends what it was. This is what a classic French restaurant does. When you’re in culinary school and turning artichokes to fry or braise, you don’t use the most beautiful artichokes. You use the bullshit ones.  

And what about all those chefs tied to the greenmarkets?
I don’t think chefs need to go there. With the opening of places like Eataly and these ridiculous markets, why would somebody want to go to a restaurant and eat that—and pay the restaurant mark-up? Gordon Ramsey, who is a notorious douchebag I suppose, had some quote where he said: “Any restaurant who serves a piece of produce out of season is an asshole.” I get where that comes from, but if we are all using the same things, in the same ways, then what is the fucking point?    

I agree. That $8 bowl of local radishes can be painful…
Especially in this town, where there are so many restaurants doing that. What’s the point? We don’t need that. It’s not furthering anything. When it comes down to it, it’s a business. And if people are going to buy something, the uncreative people are going to open those places that serve peas and poached eggs. And the press is going to write about them.

I think the press—myself included—is to blame. We love a good trend…
That said, we are not in some horrible place right now. New York has incredible food. But nobody is pushing to elevate a “New York City cuisine.” 

But back to the spring produce. All of this is not to say you don’t use things like ramps in your cooking…
Ramps are delicious, but I don’t go out of my way to find things like better carrots. Ramps are ramps. I am sure you can find some very special wild ones. But we do not have the time. I’m running two and a half restaurants. We do not have time to hire a forager.

You pickle a lot of produce, which plays into your preference of manipulation.
It’s taking an ingredient and actually doing something with it that somebody at home might not be doing themselves. That’s not boring. 


What’s your take on seasonal ingredients? Spring forward or fall back in the comments.