Now that the the list of Eater Young Guns semi-finalists has been released, it's time to get to know these rising stars. Check this space for regular introductions to each of the 50 semi-finalists and tune in on June 24 to find the list of winners.
Contra, an intimate 44-seat, $55 tasting menu restaurant in Manhattan's Lower East Side, has been making waves since its debut eight months ago. Right off the bat, Insatiable Critic Gael Greene filed words of praise, stating that her meal at Contra out-shined Manhattan's top tasting menu restaurants, Blana and Brookyn Fare. Adam Platt at New York later dropped two stars, as did Pete Wells at The Times.
Contra is a modern New York restaurant. One that serves a daily-changing five course minimalist menu reflective of the season. Pastry chef and bread man Fabian von Hauske is half the team (Wells is a fan of his chicken fat-basted rolls), along with savory chef Jeremiah Stone. Though he's just 24 years of age, Von Hauske has already passed through the Noma kitchen, spending six months there. He also counts time at Jean Georges here in New York.
Von Hauske explains Contra's inception as such: "We opened Contra just as a place where we could make food that we thought was interesting and simple, we really just wanted to feed our friends and people who were interested in something different without having to go to a pretentious place and pay a lot of money." And on that note, with less than a year down, Von Hauske and Stone have partnered with Thomas Martin for an even more casual sophomore effort, also in the Lower East Side.
But guess what? Despite his early success, Von Hauske didn't always pursue pastry. He almost became a graphic designer. Below, ten facts about the chef.
1) Of all flavors, Von Hauske hates licorice and white chocolate.
2) The most interesting place he has traveled is Luxembourg.
3) Von Hauske's favorite food is anything from the citrus category.
4) He used to play in a post hardcore band in Mexico City, where he grew up. He was seriously involved in music until some of his friends went on to get recognition and sign record deals.
5) During his music days, Von Hauske used to design all the flyers and shirts, so he initially thought he wanted to study graphic design.
6) While considering a career in graphic design, Von Hauske took a job in Mexico City at a Dean & Deluca-esque cafe. This was his first kitchen job and the experience stuck with him enough so that when he eventually moved to Manhattan, he enrolled at The French Culinary Institute.
7) Von Hauske spent a year and a half working with Momofuku partner/culinary technowizard Dave Arnold "distilling stuff and injecting bubbles into everything we could." Arnold eventually put Von Hauske in touch with pastry king Johnny Iuzzini (Jean Georges) and that's how/when he switched to desserts.
8) Arnold and Iuzzini are the two individuals who have most had an effect on Von Hauske's career.
9) Three years before Contra came to be, Von Hauske and Stone decided to move to Europe. Before relocating, they joked about opening a Mexican ice cream shop in New York, and that's originally how the idea of Contra was born.
10) It took he and Stone a full year to find the site that now serves as Contra.
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[Photo Credit: Mickaël A. Bandassak]