Kitchen Tour: Dan Kluger's Brooklyn "Real Chef" Kitchen

I recently had the great privilege of touring the Park Slope, Brooklyn home kitchen of Dan Kluger, the executive chef of Core: Club.I was so curious to find out what a “real” chef’s kitchen looks like. Is it teeming with gleaming appliances? Is it organized alphabetically? Does the chef turn out seven course meals? Are there secret accoutrements that only a chef would have? No – no – no – yes.

Core, located on East 55th Street in Manhattan, is an exclusive private club with a restaurant that offers members a gourmet dining experience and extensive wine list. Dan started the 90-seat restaurant with advice from consulting chef, Tom Colicchio, and now oversees the operation, including numerous private events. Prior to Core, Dan spent seven years at Danny Meyer’s Indian-fusion restaurant, Tabla, where he also met his wife, Hannah. Before that, Dan worked at Union Square Cafe where, in his words, he got his start in the kitchen as a prep cook.

Dan’s rental kitchen is exactly the same type of kitchen any of us mere mortals would have. What surprised me is that he does not have a million kitchen gadgets or more pots and pans than an average home cook would have. He does have a perfectly adequate selection of exactly what an experienced chef would need … nothing more, nothing less.

This includes a beautiful set of copper pans, one of which is his favorite. He has a complete spice collection, including some unusual items like basil seed, which “expands to look like caviar when water is added,” beet powder, and hot dried pepper hand-imported from a trip to Spain.

Refreshingly, nothing is unusually orderly – unlike what one might expect of a professional chef. His drawers, in fact, exhibit the same chaos one would expect of a family of two working parents and a two year old.

As I spent more time there, poking around a bit more and watching him effortlessly whip up two gourmet pizzas for lunch, I noticed a few things that were out of the ordinary. An oven thermometer lives in the oven, for example. He also has some rather deadly-looking Japanese knives, one of which is specifically for sushi, and he tapes a penny to their protective sheaths for good luck (U.S. Army superstition handed down from his dad).

Although Dan does not have a ton of room on the counters, he has an industrial-sized KitchenAid mixer (an eBay purchase), a professional food scale, a large, serious-looking gelato maker stashed on the bottom shelf of his bookshelf in the living room, and a Chitarra (“guitar” in Italian), a very interesting-looking pasta cutter with cords that cut perfect long strands of pasta from sheets of pasta dough (he developed a passion for handmade pastas while working at Union Square Café).

The apartment has three large bookcases (two in the office/toddler’s room and one in the living room) that are full of food magazines and cookbooks, among which are extensive back issues of Gourmet, Food & Wine, Food Arts, Fine Cooking and Art Culinaire (some go as far back as 1994).

He typically cooks easy, simple meals at home, catering in part to his daughter, Ella.

And the pizza we had for lunch? It was phenomenal - perfectly shaped and evenly cooked – one pizza margherita and one white pizza with ricotta and dates. I have to do this more often!

Favorite restaurant
Gramercy Tavern & Tabla

Favorite dish to make at home
Roasted Chicken

Favorite dish to make at the restaurant
Braises

Favorite dish to have out
Pork buns and peking duck from Chinatown

Favorite place to shop for restaurant groceries:
Union square green market (I go three times a week for two hours at a time with a wallet full of cash and do two cabs worth of shopping for the restaurant)

Favorite place to shop for groceries for home
Union Market – Brooklyn

Greatest wish for his next home kitchen
Large stove, exhaust hood and a wall oven (my back hurts)

Biggest surprise about being a chef (what you did not expect)
I guess just how much I love it. I love being really busy and jumping in and cooking on the line next to my cooks; there is nothing like it!

Favorite cookbook
Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio (it teaches solid cooking fundamentals)

Favorite kitchen tool An old fashioned cast-iron grilled cheese maker called this speed grill (another eBay purchase) that reminds him of his childhood

Related: Kitchen Tour: At Home in Paris with David Lebovitz

Originally published May 7, 2008

(All images: Sabra Krock of Cookbook Catchall)

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