Cooking Over Fire with Chef Norberto Piattoni

Cooking on open fire is deceivingly difficult. Sure, like many, sometimes you probably throw a steak, or some burgers, on the grill and cook over a propane flame. Maybe you even use charcoal and fancy yourself something of a grill master. Your creations are delicious, for good reason. The fire. But making an entire meal over wood fire? Bit higher degree of difficulty there. 

Preparing and controlling a bed of wood coals alone is something of an art, not to mention making a meal that reveals a variety of flavors beyond smoke and carbon. While it’s basically the most elemental way to prepare food, it’s actually pretty hard to go beyond grilling and make a whole meal over flame that transcends the typical BBQ fare. Not surprisingly, many of us are so far removed from from cooking this way, we wouldn’t know how to properly cook a whole fish or a steak, much less a potato or a beet. Still, it's my favorite way to cook, especially with fresh fish and vegetables from my aunt and uncle's garden in Vermont

So when I read about the disciple of Francis Mallmann Norberto Piattoni (a.k.a. Chef Negro), an Argentine who is opening a restaurant in Brooklyn where everything will be cooked over fire, I was particularly intrigued. 

Chef Negro’s Brooklyn restaurant isn’t open yet, so I was especially excited to get the chance to go to the Pioneer Works Supper Club last week with my camera for something of a test run of the chef’s offerings. On the menu was striped bass (wrapped in cheese cloth and stuffed with herbs), beets roasted in the fire embers, beef tartare and a salad that tasted unlike any I’d had before. Was it the marjoram? Kohlrabi? Wasong? I’m really not sure. 

Chef Negro’s new restaurant will opens this fall and I’ll definitely be checking it out when it does. Based on a recent piece in Grubstreet, we know the restaurant will feature an open kitchen, and I’m fascinated to see just how the outdoor cooking over flame situation will be laid out inside. If last week’s event at Pioneer Works is any indication of what’s to come, we can expect some amazing food and plenty of interesting process to observe as we wait for our supper.