Jan 17 2011

After Lunch: A Chat with Seersucker’s Rob Newton

After my vegetarian lunch at Seersucker, I followed up with chef and owner Rob Newton.  We chatted about ingredient sourcing, the importance of vegetarian options, and the food he cooks at home.

Q: What influenced you to at least have a few vegetarian options at Seersucker?

A: It makes for a well-balanced menu.  There are a lot of people who are vegetarian and there should be options for them.  It's my responsibility as an owner and chef to make a diverse, well-balanced menu.

Q: You were a vegetarian at one point?

A: I was a vegetarian for about two years.  I ate fish so I was more of a pescetarian.  I stuck with it for about two years and then found myself getting sick of fish--which is tragic because I love fish.  I thought, if my body is craving it, then I need to listen to my body.   A lot of Southern food is thought to be fried and heavy and full of gravy--and we do make gravy, but there's a balance.  Down South, you've had farmers markets forever.  The stereotype of Southern food is deep fried, gravy laden food and it's really not that.

Q:  When you originally decided to put Seersucker in that location, were you already aware of the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket?

A: Oh yeah, we live here.  It's even better now, because it's a year round market.  We get some ingredients from the Greenmarket.  The problem with buying all of our products over there is that market is so popular [that] there's no real incentive for the farmers to give me a [bulk] discount, they're going to sell it anyway.  So I buy things at the market for 'special dishes'.  Milk Thistle has worked with us to sell us their yogurt, some of their dairy and we use Grazin' Angus for beef.  I do love having the market right across the street.

Q:  Why do you personally place such a high importance on using quality ingredients?

A: Why wouldn't I?  Throughout my experiences as a chef, I've also been lucky enough to work with restaurants who value quality ingredients.  I didn't do all this to NOT carry and use the best products.

Q:  When you're not cooking at the restaurant, do you have any go-to basic recipes that you prepare for yourself?

A: We don't do pasta here because there's not really a pasta tradition in Southern food.  One of my all time favorite dishes is Cacio e Pepe.  If it's not that, it's probably roasting some meat or a basic fish, and Kerry [co-owner of Seersucker] makes a salad.