It's common practice for chefs to collaborate in order to keep things fresh, joining forces to generate a single, limited edition dish — think David Chang's Momofuku Shrimp Stack at Shake Shack, April Bloomfield's Banoffee ice cream at Morgenstern's, and Ample Hills and Baked's beloved Black & Walt. Sometimes, they'll even descend on each other's kitchens for one-night-only pop-ups: look for various high-profile cameo appearances at spots like Intro in Chicago, Carousel in London, and Chefs Club in New York. But what would it be like to regularly work in tandem, standing shoulder to shoulder with a creative equal, day in and day out? For an uncompromisingly alpha personality, it sounds like a nightmare, but it's proved a winning formula for Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske.
Currently co-chefs and owners of Contra and Wildair in Manhattan (the former is their New York Times-starred, tasting menu debut, the latter is their small plate offshoot, which garnered a "Best New Restaurant" nomination from James Beard), the duo originally connected in culinary school, where a fast friendship set the stage for a professional merger later on. So after honing their chops at various establishments, both here and abroad, the pair decided to strike out on their own in 2013 — and quickly emerged as one of the world's most formidable tag teams in food.
"Like any other partnership, you're always working at it and constantly figuring it out," admits Stone.
"But it's important to always be nice to each other," von Hauske adds, "as well as communicate well and listen to each other, along with the rest of the team."
Of course, it helps that the cohorts occupy largely different realms, with Stone overseeing savory (such as beef tartare shot through with smoked cheddar and chestnuts) and von Hauske supplying the sweet (i.e., bulbs of panna cotta, layered with frosty shards of seasonal fruit granite). Still, they make a concentrated effort to connect on multiple aspects of their day-to-day menus, with von Hauske baking bread for Stone's spicy tuna bruschetta, and Stone sneaking surprising elements into Hauske's inventive desserts. "We definitely run every dish by one another," insists von Hauske. "It's helpful when it comes to balancing out flavors and textures. And if one of us wants to focus on a particular ingredient, sometimes the other one will say, "Hey, I think this might go well together," and then we'll try it."
So how does the twosome intend to keep pushing the envelope (not to mention strengthening their relationship) having garnered such outsized attention and potentially head-inflating acclaim, in the span of a mere three years? "I think we've always stuck to our guts, and will continue to do that in terms of our risk taking," von Hauske says. "But we're also lucky to have a great staff and a lot of close friends, who'll tell us if any of our ideas get too crazy!"
"We want to always be ourselves but evolve as necessary," Stone interjects. "For now though, it's been a really great year and we feel really fortunate for the support of our team, and those that believe in us."
Stone and van Hauske will sit down with Wylie Dufresne and Kate Krader to chat about Ideas That Excite: The Shape of Food To Come at Taste Talks. Want to get in on the conversation about culinary collaboration and risk taking? Secure your front row seat to the future of taste and buy your ticket to Taste Talks Brooklyn today!