Beck Bolender, executive chef at One Twenty One Restaurant, has returned home to North Salem, N.Y. after honing his skills for over five years at Jean-Georges in New York City and garnering high accolades as becoming the youngest sous chef in Jean-Georges history.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I started in a deli when I was about 15 making salads and sandwiches. From there I moved on to restaurants where my love for food continued to grow.
What partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented which have attributed to your restaurant's success?
We use a lot of local farms at the restaurant. I think having a community of local people helps to tell the story of One Twenty One.
What are the most popular dishes at 121 and which are your personal favorites?
Some crowd favorites are Charred Cauliflower, Shrimp & Grits and our guests love the pizza from our wood-burning oven. My favorites are the Grilled Octopus with garlic hummus and the Charred Cauliflower.
How do you come up with dish ideas and presentation?
I go to the local farms/ the walk-in and see what is available. From there I choose an ingredient and build a dish around that ingredient. The plating depends on the dish, but it should be visually appealing and all garnish needs to make sense and enhance the dish
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
A lot of people are changing their eating habits, focusing more on vegetable-driven diets. In the restaurant we have an entire section of the menu dedicated entirely to vegetarians.
What is your life motto?
Work hard while your young
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Bacon Egg & Cheese // Orange juice
What literature is on your bed stand?
Who is your role model - business and personal?
Describe a great night out and an ideal experience at your restaurant.
A perfect night at the restaurant would be a group of good friends, all foodies who are interested in trying new and different ingredients, dishes and flavor combinations.
Your advice to an aspiring chef?
Learn as much as you can as a cook before making taking a position as a chef.
What is your go-to travel destination?
What’s next for 121?
We look forward to continuing to elevate the Westchester food scene through our dining experiences and special events and attract foodies in and around the New York area.
Raised in North Salem, N.Y., Beck Bolender grew up working on a farm in the quaint town just 45 minutes outside New York City. It’s where Beck honed his strong work ethic and appreciation for freshly grown foods. His interest in cooking was catalyzed at the age of 14 when he first joined the 121 Restaurant team and was taken under the wing by owner Peter DeVito. Together they started 121 Inflight Catering, providing VIP orders for private jets. Beck went on to work in the company’s restaurants before attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), during which time he completed an externship at Jean-Georges, an invaluable experience that cut his teeth in this industry.
Ascending the ranks from Nougatine at Jean-Georges in 2008—starting as garde manger, followed by fish station—he quickly worked his way up to Jean-Georges kitchen, becoming the youngest in Jean-Georges’ history. Transitioning back to Nougatine, he was promoted to executive sous chef, where his role increased in responsibility and spanned both Nougatine and Jean-Georges. In 2013, and after five years at Jean-Georges, he was ready to take his experience and put it to the test back where he started: in North Salem and at 121 Restaurant.
As executive chef of the newly rebranded One Twenty One Restaurant, he is bringing his New York City culinary know-how to North Salem diners, offering a menu that is locally-sourced with global influences, all in an updated modern, cozy, country setting.
“I’m excited to bring a city dining experience to the country through the relaunch of One Twenty One,” said Chef Beck Bolender. “The menu will be approachable and highlight local, in-season Hudson Valley ingredients prepared in a progressive style. My goal is to have customers try new dishes that they have never had before, especially in North Salem.”