Wednesday, December 16, 2015

In-progress Saratoga steakhouse taking a star turn

Gray Kunz
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The high-end steakhouse niche in the local dining scene is taking the spotlight this week.

On Monday, the Saratoga Casino and Raceway announced it has reached agreement with Morton's The Steakhouse, an international chain of upscale restaurants, to create a restaurant there as part of its new hotel project.

Now, we learn that the restaurant Salt & Char, in development at the historic Van Dam Hotel in at 353 Broadway, has hired Gray Kunz to heads its kitchen. At one time, he was rated by critics and contemporaries alike as one of the best chefs in New York City.

While Morton's won't be open until June or so, Salt & Char is expected to open in the spring. Gray also will supervise two other restaurants being created in the adjacent Adelphi Hotel, which is undergoing renovations. While no descriptions have been released concerning the Adelphi restaurants, the developers say each will have its own identity.

In a news release, Kunz said, "As a chef, I am constantly inspired by the Hudson Valley region, a place many consider the market garden of New York, a place that is known to have the freshest ingredients in the state, and a place where farmers dedicated to sustainable and organic practices harvest some of the freshest produce available. I have a home in Upstate New York. It's where I go to center myself, to pause and create, and of course, to pursue my own personal passion, which is to cook only the finest of dishes in the most bountiful of locations.”

Kunz, born in Singapore, raised in Switzerland, and now a resident of Dutchess County, learned his craft at the internationally-renowned Swiss restaurant Fredy Girardet. After five years there, he moved on to the Regent Hotel in Hong Kong, then came to New York in 1991 to head up Lespinasse in the St. Regis Hotel on Central Park, which earned a four-star New York Times rating during his nine years there.

He later operated his own restaurants, Cafe Gray and Grayz, in Manhattan. He presently owns a restaurant in a Hong Kong hotel. And, since 2006, he has run Kunz Management in New York and Hong Kong, overseeing hotel and restaurant management, a diversified real-estate portfolio, and the development of food-related environment initiatives.

On the eve of the opening of Cafe Gray in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, New York magazine wrote a glowing profile of Kunz. Here's an excerpt from it:

"His food is the product of two worlds, marrying classic French technique with a mastery of the flavors and ingredients that he first acquired during his childhood in the pan-Asian food culture of Singapore, and then broadened during five years as a chef in Hong Kong.

"His cuisine is not so much fusion as the product of a man fluent in the food languages of Europe, India, China, and Southeast Asia. When Ruth Reichl gave her first four-star review in The New York Times, it was to him. 'He struck me as the first European-trained chef who really understood Asian ingredients, not just as an accent, but innately,' recalls Reichl, now the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. 'You can’t learn this. I don’t know of any other chef who has it as part of his vocabulary. You add that to his impeccable training and it gives him something that nobody else has or can compete with'."

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