“MY
PARENTS HAVE A HOME
in Idra, Greece so I grew up eating
this way,” said chef Melia Marden clad in jeans and a Proenza Schouler tee, and
flanked by a dozen helpers in the kitchen of The Smile To Go. “I love countries
like Morocco, Greece and the coast of Italy. All those places with warmer
climates.” To wit, her first cookbook Modern Mediterranean is chockfull of med-inspired recipes such as fennel, cucumber and pomegranate
salad, fava bean crostini and a saffron fish stew. As the head chef for three
locations of The Smile as well as Ruschmeyers in Montauk, Marden is no stranger
to trawling farmer’s markets, meeting with produce dealers and conceptualizing
ever-changing menus that focus on fresh ingredients and simple recipes. Take
the quinoa recipe she whipped up specially for Bonberi. Here, we caught up with Marden on
what she can’t live without in her kitchen as well as her favorite spots in the
city.

One of my
favorite recipes
in Modern Mediterranean is the Moroccan Chicken. My
mother would make it every Christmas with lemon and olives. She would also make
a simple Thai chicken soup with rice noodles and chestnuts. It was really
comforting.

My
favorite restaurant
to splurge in New York is La Grenouille. It’s so old
school and classic. It’s the perfect place for an anniversary dinner or
something like that. I also find the dishes at Il Buco interesting.

A great
healthy snack is
sugar snap peas. They’re like potato chips.

The easiest Indian summer dish is corn. It’s really good when you grill it in the husk.
You don’t need much because it’s so sweet.

One chef I
admire
is Prune‘s Gabrielle Hamilton. I really liked her book and she has
a developed palette, which I admire.

The last
inspiring place
I visited was Big Sur. It’s so beautiful, it feels
like you’re inside a cloud. There was wild fennel growing on the side of the
road. It was surreal.

I used to
have
a cherry tree on our roof for two years. I would make my own
maraschino cherries, it was really labor intensive.

My sweet
indulgence
is Cadbury’s milk chocolate. I also love raw cookie dough.

The most
underrated
kitchen ingredient are shallots. They’re onions but not too
onion-y.

The most
overrated
ingredient is bacon. I like a BLT but having bacon in
everything is overwhelming. I don’t put meats in my vegetables.

Three
must-haves in the kitchen
are crushed chili flakes, Diamond Crystal kosher
salt and pomegranate syrup or honey, which I use to roast vegetables.

My last
memorable meal was Rich Table
 in San Francisco. That’s where the
beginning of this food culture started. We had the tasting menu but it wasn’t
like small bites, it felt like we ordered everything on the menu. I had this
sardine dip and a savory panna cotta, which was amazing.

My
husband’s
favorite dish I make is fish stew.

All of our
meat
is sourced from Pino’s on Sullivan Street. We make sure it
is antibiotic and hormone free. We source Manouri cheese and greek yoghurt from
Optima. And we get our herbs from Cedar Farms.

My
favorite thing
to do is to infuse olive oil with fried garlic, sage
and pink peppercorns. We pour that over a goat cheese crostini.

To
exercise
, I swim or run on the treadmill at the YMCA.

I don’t
have control
of the music played at The Smile. I’m always surrounded by
Mexican death metal rock.


MELIA’S MUST-HAVES LIST

1. Erato Olive Oil 

2. Wusthof Knives

3. Micro Zester

4. Neutrogena Sunblock

5. Aveeno Baby Moisturizer

6. Lucas Paw Paw

7. Klorane Chamomile Shampoo


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FOR MELIA’S QUINOA RECIPE, CLICK HERE

 

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