Jared Gadbaw is no stranger to Michelin-star restaurants with tenures at Eleven Madison Park and Marea, where he honed his culinary chops. He embarked (with partner Michael White) on the 215-seat eatery Vaucluse with an August debut. This recently opened “brasserie plus” evokes some of the flavor memories of a French brasserie but in a more elevated manner — with a menu that won’t weigh you down.
Can you give a timeline to your evolution to this point in your career?
I always like to cook and be in the kitchen. My grandmother was a fantastic cook, and my dad would also cook on the weekends — we’d have big family dinners in Michigan and I’d help out. After I graduated from Michigan State (with a business degree) I worked with my dad at a car dealership. One day (after eight years of working) a switch flipped and I thought, ‘I’m going to be my dad in 20 years if I don’t get out of here.’ I saw an ad for a six-month program at the French Culinary Institute and decided to apply and come to New York. I thought, ‘I would spend two years here [New York] and then go back to Michigan a great success.’ But I’ve been here almost 14 years and I’m still learning. I’ve been fortunate to meet the right people and was fully prepared for the challenges that were put before me.
Did you spend time learning to cook at restaurants in France?
I recently spent time staging with Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athéné in Paris in preparation for this opening. Michael White and I also reacquainted ourselves with the French-style cooking in the south of France
Can you talk about the menu and approach at Vaucluse?
Michael and I both had visions of what was essential for the menu — beef burgundy, pâté and a section of foie gras tourines. There are a lot of technique-driven dishes — but when we re-evaluated it a second time it seemed heavy for an August opening, so we fine-tuned it to include lighter fare and beefed up the vegetable-centric dishes.
Can you choose a favorite on the menu?
I would say the pâté en croûte is the best example of the dish I have ever had. It gets a really good reception and takes a long time to create — it’s encrusted in dough with a really nice pate inside. It’s a challenging dish, but my executive sous chef, Tom, spent hours figuring it out, and it’s just superb.
Are you a perfectionist in the kitchen? Do you have any pet peeves in the kitchen?
I would say no — I pick and choose my battles. If you asked me six years ago when we were just opening Marea, I may have been more particular. But now I don’t sweat the small stuff. I do insist on cleanliness — especially in a big restaurant like this. It’s hard to get everyone on board making sure we are all on the same page. For instance, when I see a little wrapper on the floor and no one picks it up — I’m not happy about it. It’s my Achilles’ heel.
Who designed the interior for Vaucluse?
Meyer Davis did the interior design. We have several private dining rooms; one with a separate entrance. It’s been one kind of restaurant or another for over 80 years, though.
Do you think that French cuisine is trending right now?
It does seem to be a newer trend. There are a lot of different takes on French currently, but we think Vaucluse is the best!