Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Chef John Greeley of ’21’ Club

The fabled ’21’ Club…this NYC icon has been around since Prohibition days and today still captivates diners with its old-world charms and haute cuisine. Between marriage proposals in the intimate upstairs area to private parties in the famed Wine Cellar, ’21’ Club, one of the New York’s most historic restaurants, is first and foremost a celebratory restaurant. But why wait for a special day to taste chef John Greeley’s award-winning cuisine.

Here, he shares what’s new at ’21’ Club along with some his favorites places.

Haute Living: What’s new at ’21’ Club?
Executive Chef John Greeley: At ’21 Club we just launched our spring menu with new light dishes such as, Sautéed Striped Bass, Grilled Shrimp Salad, Potato- Crusted Chatham Cod and Wasabi Pea Crusted Sea Scallops. We are using ingredients this season like okra, leeks, fava beans, ramps and a lot of fresh fish. I also recently cured some Mangalitsa Pig that will appear on the menu at ‘21’ Club. Mangalitsa is all about the fat. It’s so clean tasting and succulent. You can flavor and cook with the fat like using almost any other fat.

HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at ’21’?
JG: The Grilled Octopus is one of my favorites, along with our new White Asparagus Soup.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
JG: I like to fine dine monthly at 3 or 4 star restaurants like Marea and WD-50 downtown. I also enjoy neighborhood and low key places that are off the beaten path.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
JG: I love ultra fresh seafood, with a simple preparation, raw and barely touched. This allows for each ingredient to be showcased. I use a lot of fresh fish at ‘21’ Club, changing the ingredients depending on the season. My favorite seafood includes shellfish, razor clams and bass; complemented by organic vegetables and beans. My ideal meal would also be somewhere quiet and outside.

HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
JG: I like eating and cooking at home with my family. The kids help make dinner and it is a lot of fun. I can’t think of anything better then celebrating a special occasion at home with them.

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
JG: The downtown Soho area is my favorite neighborhood. I used to skateboard down those side walks. I really enjoy the vibe of the area, neighborhood feel, people watching and window shopping. The energy is contagious.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
JG: On my days off, I like to visit museums in the city with my family; my children are 5 and 3. I also like to shop for new knives and kitchen gadgets for work and visit farmers markets for new ingredients.

HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
JG: The Hamptons is a favorite vacation destination for when I want to lounge on the beach. My ultimate vacation would be Italy, specifically Florence. I am drawn to the city because of the food, of course, as well as the art—I love it. It is a beautiful place.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
JG: My most memorable meal was with my son Hudson, he is 3 years old. He concocted a chocolate and berry smoothie for me all on his own. It was a Saturday morning; he threw in the ingredients and stirred it up (his version of blending). Of course, I drank it and it actually wasn’t that bad! It was a proud moment for me. He really liked seeing my reaction. Who knows, it could be the first meal he made for me before becoming a chef like his dad!

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
JG: Some of my favorite ingredients to use in the dishes I prepare at ‘21’ Club are:
1. Salts from all over the world
2. Smoke of some sort
3. Sea Urchin
4. Seaweed
5. Mangalitsa Pig

’21’ Club is located at 21 West 52nd St; 212-582-7200

Need help finding the perfect New York City 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.