My upcoming review of Lazare, Russell (Tom Tom, TABC) Hayward’s new spot in West Village, has gone to press. During the course of inspecting the restaurant, I had several long chats with Lazare’s execuchef, David Gilbert. Gilbert, 31, is originally from Dallas but he has cooked all over the world. He returned to Dallas in 2006 to open Luqa in the Dallas Roof Gardens, a tony eatery that closed after eight months. Gilbert spent over a year with Jack Baum and Mort Meyerson developing Kitchen 18, a upscale eatery planned for the Rosewood Court Tower until the project was shelved.
Now Gilbert is happy in the kitchen at Lazare. He and Hayward have played the local, organic, and fair trade cards to the max. They have their own water purification system. They buy produce from Eden’s Garden and Barking Cat Farm. Cheese comes from artisan producers like Veldhuizen Family Farm in Dublin. Gilbert is the only chef I am aware of who has actually gone to a farmer and asked them to plant for him. “I sat down with Marie, owner of Eden’s, with an organic seed catalog and went through what would grow on her soil,” said Gilbert. “She has all kinds of things growing for us right now–four different kinds of cucumbers, off-the-wall radishes, and tomatoes.”
He’s also the only chef in town experimenting with the CVap: a controlled vaporation machine with a system that allows him to cook with moist vapor and/or dry heat. Gilbert cooks all of his meat, and most of his vegetables using 100 percent humidity or (sorta) sous vide. He can also jostle with the settings and add dry heat in varying degrees to achieve different textures and tastes. At times, Gilbert talks more like a scientist than a chef. He has some crazy experiments going on in that kitchen. Ask, I mean taste, the fennel.
Hayward and Gilbert spent months researching and tasting chickens. The birds they chose are raised to Lazare’s specifications and in separate areas from the other clucks at Dominion Farms in Denison.
Here’s the cardamom rub: Gilbert has always worked above the $25-an-entrée price point. Lazare’s main dishes run from $12 to $19, There are less expensive flatbreads, burgers (bison), and sandwiches. The lovely chicken described above is only $15.
I think we can expect to see more CVaps in restaurant kitchens. They may be expensive (some up to $15,000) but if used correctly, a chef can prepare, store, and inventory food a lot easier. If Lazare doesn’t make it, Gilbert could easily become a door-to-door CVap salesman. The guy knows his stuff.