Spice Market, where Jean-Georges Vongerichten has been reinterpreting Southeast Asian street food since 2004, has become a mainstay in the over-populated Meatpacking District. Vongerichten may own many restaurants now, but he is still the guiding force in all his endeavors. And that’s no exception in Spice Market’s kitchen. It’s clear that Vongerichten has influenced pastry chef Stuart Tarff, who’s taken to his own interpretations: at Spice Market classic desserts are given an Asian twist, while some traditional Asian desserts are given an American twist, as evidenced in the green tea sundae, spiced pumpkin cake, Thai jewels and white chocolate and yuzu pavlova.
Tarff made his way to Spice Market from London, where he was born, after a foray working under Jean-Georges at Café Martinique in the Bahamas. He received his culinary degree from Westminister College in London and has worked at many restaurants in London including Harrods, and Asia de Cuba.
Haute Living: Hello Stuart, what’s new at Spice Market?
Stuart Tarff: I’m pleased with our new desserts. A twist on a traditional carrot cake tweaked with pumpkin, a brittle (normally made with nuts) is made of pumpkin seeds and instead of a cream cheese frosting, we serve it with a cream cheese ice cream.
HL: What are some of your favorite desserts that you serve?
ST: The green tea sundae is my favorite right now. It includes tapioca, green tea, chocolate sorbet, Indonesian peanuts, orange marshmallows and green tea—it’s truly exotic and decadent.
HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
ST: I’m English so I rather enjoy the Spotted Pig. Or Nobu for sushi.
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
ST: Pie Mash & Liquor. I was brought up in London’s East End and it was a staple for me growing up. Mince pie, mashed potatoes and parsley gravy … mmmm.
HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
ST: I don’t think there’s a better restaurant for an occasion than Jean Georges.
HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
ST: I love our neighborhood right here! The Meatpacking District is high energy, with great restaurants and lively bars.
HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
ST: I usually head out of the city to golf.
HL: Your favorite vacation destination?
ST: I love the Bahamas. It has sentimental value because I was married there.
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
ST: Definitely a meal I enjoyed at my first Michelin star restaurant: The Square in London. Amazing!
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
ST: Chocolate, white chocolate, peanuts, condensed milk and strawberries.
Spice Market is located at 403 W. 13th St; 212-675-2322
Going out to eat and need help finding the perfect NYC restaurant? Or want tips on cooking elegant meals at home? Contact Haute Living dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels via her blog, The Busy Hedonist, or email her with any questions.