The Future Is Not Female; It’s Equal: Chef Angie Mar Talks Industry And What’s Next

Photo Credit: Eric Vitale

Seattle-born Chef Angie Mar is a step above the rest as a Chef and a woman, and at only 36, is an inspiration to all chefs. Her restaurant, The Beatrice Inn in the West Village is a beloved New York dining destination serving up show-stopping cuts of meat, cured and grilled to mouthwatering perfection. Her love affair with meat afforded her glowing reviews, but it’s her unapologetic approach to cooking that is revolutionizing the way meat is experienced.

Coming from a long line of food lovers and restaurateurs, including her aunt Ruby Chow who pioneered Chinese cuisine in Seattle, Mar always knew she had a love for food, but traveled down a few paths, including real estate, before realizing her passion lied in hospitality. Mar withdrew all the money she had and embarked on a solo journey around the world, where she found inspiration and a passion for cooking. When the purse strings dried up, Mar returned home and applied to culinary school, where she went on to hone her skills in several kitchens including Andrew Tarlow’s lauded Brooklyn restaurants Reynard, Diner and Marlow & Sons. Today she is known for her live fire and dry aging techniques, and signature style. Mar’s relentless nature and impartial perspective is the refresh button the restaurant industry needs. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with Mar to discuss her ‘chops’ success and what’s next.

We all know New Yorker’s love their steak. How did you approach this when you revamped the restaurant? Were you worried they weren’t going to like your style?

When we opened it was categorized as a steakhouse, but I don’t think anybody knew how to categorize a restaurant. Yes, we do have steak but we’re not a steakhouse, because when you go to a steakhouse you get a piece of meat and sides, whereas we give you a composed dish. I think of it more as a redefined chophouse.

 As a woman in the hospitality industry, how do you feel about your accomplishments?

I’m proud of my accomplishments. I was raised by strong women. I had my aunt Ruby who gave me a lot of strength, but I was also raised by great men—my father was a huge influence in my life, on this restaurant and the food we cook every day. I think there is a lot of conversation about gender and for me, it has never been a part of my vocabulary. I have always believed that food is a great equalizer. Everything on the table should transcend gender, race, sexuality, and age. I think the culinary scene has been shaken up in the past few years. I often get asked what it’s like being a woman, an Asian woman in the industry, but it never occurred to me. This is what I do, I cook.

Courtesy of The Beatrice Inn

Is it challenging to create new menus?

Every creative gets blocked in a way, like writers’ block. As a cook, there are times when we create, and other times we have issues creating. I have had both of those. I change my menu every season, and for me, it’s about finding inspiration in art, fashion, and travel. I will get fixated on certain ingredients like lamb, cherries or an herb and will lock myself away in a room and look at Rembrandt or Salvador Dali to find ideas. I can write a whole season’s menu in one sitting whenever I get a wave of inspiration. My dishes are a reflection of what I want to say. When I come out of my creative coma, no one understands except for me, however, out of that madness comes an entire season’s menu. A Dali painting tells me a rabbit dish will go well with crayfish covered in truffles. I wouldn’t have cooked the dish yet, but I know it will work and usually needs a few tweaks.

What advice do you have for others who want to be successful in the hospitality industry?

The hospitality industry is different from what it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago and so on. But what people need to know now is that its hard work. It’s not like what you see on the Food Network, rather it’s more like being in the military. It requires discipline, hard work, consistency, passion, and integrity.

Where do you see the restaurant industry in 10 years?

The future of our industry and the future of New York’s restaurant industry is all about real estate. I think it will dictate the culinary landscape. It’s also about the emerging professionals, the ones who are graduating from culinary school and refining their skills in restaurants today. I think they have this idea that in one year they will be sous chefs. The industry is lacking the desire to learn and to immerse oneself in a culture. There’s a shift in the new generation that is present now that wasn’t there when I started. My hope is to instill a culture in the next generation, because without hard work, without the lessons, and time dedicated, we are going to see a decline in the talent that is put on plates, and with that, there will be a decline in quality in the restaurant industry. New York has amazing restaurants and chefs that people in the hospitality industry look up to for their own success. If we can change the culture, then we can get back to where we need to be.

What are your thoughts on the food combinations you see on social media?

It’s interesting because I see images come through my feed and I’m like really, you have a burger and a piece of fried chicken and an Oreo in your bloody mary. It’s just clickbait, it’s not actual food of substance. That is what has changed the culinary culture, food that is purely made for shock value. I hope we return to substance because there is no point adding gold flakes if it’s not going to enhance the flavor—instead, we should focus on the soul of food, and shock our customers with flavors.

If you could open up a restaurant anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

It’s interesting because The Beatrice Inn is doing well, and now people are wondering what’s the next step. But if I could wake up tomorrow and open up something new, I would go to Paris. It would be centered around meat because I don’t really eat fish or like it, I’m a meat girl.