Rachael Polhill: Executive Chef, Dante
What do you love most about NYC?
I get asked this question often, my response hasn’t changed in the last 5 years. I love that New York is filled with endless possibilities, that anything can happen, people come here to dream big and work hard - the combination of both pursuing my dreams and being surrounded by all this potential is invigorating.
What’s happening at:
6:00 AM – I very rarely ever see this time of day, I’m not a morning person. If I do see this time of day it’s usually because I’ve been out all night and I am on my way home - but i’m also almost always in search of food. There is a great mexican bakery in my neighbourhood in Brooklyn, Sunset Park, it is situated next to the train station and open 24hrs. So whether I feel like eating a whole birthday cake, or a breakfast torta or some fresh baked mexican conchas this is where I end up,the ladies are always super friendly and everything is delicious.
10:00 AM - Dante is open from 10am everyday so this is usually when I start my day. I receive the first reports from the kitchen between 9 and 10am - for the kitchen the first 2-3 hours of the day are a pivotal time in the success of the rest of the day.
Also this is when I catch up on the day that, due to time difference is ending in Australia, which usually means watching instagram stories of my niece and nephew - definitely a fun and happy way to start the day. I don’t typically eat breakfast except on my days off I love to go to neighborhood places and eat chocolate chip pancakes with bacon - I feel like the USA weirdly has this rich but uncomplicated food culture associated to diners, open all day serving every variation possible of all the dishes your mom would have made for you, I truly feel like most of the most iconic fast food restaurants have developed from this concept and evolved into something this country is identified with.
(sorry I skipped a few hours here)
04:00 PM - At 4pm everyday my body is programmed to want food because this is family meal time at the restaurant - clearly my body functions around the kitchen schedule, even when I’m not working I can feel myself wanting food at 4pm.
In the last week I’ve been asked about 3 time what my hobbies are and can honestly say that I think it sounds boring for a Chef to say that their hobbies revolve fully around food but, I love eating and drinking and reading menus and ordering food and watching bartenders and then staring blankly at people producing all of the above. My fave places always have open kitchens, I can’t help myself - I think it probably makes me a very disinterested dining companion. Notable mentions for open kitchen exploration in case anyone is interested, L’artusi has a great comfortable counter in front of the kitchen for dining, Metta in Brooklyn is a great place to sit in front the open kitchen and watch cooking over the open flame and Leonelli Taberna to watch the military-like precision of the hot line and the expo station through the glass windows around the kitchen.
7:00 PM - Dinner time. I have been trying to split my time between investigating food and restaurants in my neighborhood and my work neighborhood in Greenwich village, I’m still young as far as my career is concerned and have been on a steep learning curve towards understanding how to exist as a professional in New York. I thought I was coming to New York as the greatest food city in the world to have delicious food handed to me on a platter like some kind of food lovers paradise, however there is a lot more to it. The thing that makes this city so great is that it is a constant competition and requires constant evolution to stay relevant and current and ahead of the game - seriously exhausting but also seriously inspiring.
My favorite dinners always happen organically, I have a spritz, then relax into another cocktail, start to feel hungry and wander to somewhere like Quality Eats and order something from all sections of the menu, including dessert, they have a couple great cocktails on tap which is always a go-to because I know it will come out quickly (insider info) and then, despite that I try to save money by not taking ubers, by the time I have done all the food and all the drinks i’ll be ready to float home
11:00 PM - Work day is almost over and regardless of whether I am working or not, by this time I am definitely contemplating a post work drink Dante’s aperol spritz are literally the best! I think that for chef’s we have a close association with the beverage department, not only because we love to blow off steam but because our food is always served with drinks of some description.
After the inevitable 2 drinks following the spritz I am definitely looking for food - at this time of day Blue Ribbon Brasserie is coming into its own, I love these old school New York places, it feels like at this time of day they prop up industry people with food as they are leaving work, provide simple but satisfying drinks and a relaxed atmosphere that is essential to carry through til closing at 4am.
Where do you enjoy getting lost in NYC?
I enjoy getting lost in NYC after midnight.
So much happens at night, it is my preferred time of day, it is when I become my most vibrant. I’m actually writing this at 1am.
I have met many creative and inspiring individuals in NYC - it has taught me so much!
I love getting lost in the people and experiences NYC has to offer no matter what they are!