Hot Chef: Lisa Giffen, Maison Premiere


Lisa Giffen was just appointed as executive chef at Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, which is entering its second summer season as a bar that vamped into a spot with full-meal options like rabbit with spaetzle and yellowfoot mushrooms or golden snapper with bouillabaisse and squid.  The place is heavy on seafood like oysters, razor clams and crab, and Giffen experiments with her twist on New Orleans-inspired dishes. Giffen made her way from Germany, daughter of U.S. Army contractors, to Arizona to New York, where she worked for chefs including Didier Elena at Adour by Alain Ducasse. Higher temps mean their garden area is opening, and Giffen tells us what warmer weather means for fish dishes.

Congrats on the new appointment as executive chef! Tell us what you’re working on for spring.

We’re definitely adding more fish, fish move further south that part of the year, like large black bass and sepia and frogs legs.  Crawfish season is here. In terms of the vegetables, it’s not quite there yet. In terms of seafood, it’s definitely opening up the seafood for some interesting stuff.

What are you experimenting with right now?

Since we’re kind of a seafood-driven restaurant, it’s an exciting thing because you get to play around with seafood that if you weren’t seafood oriented you wouldn’t. We’re thinking about getting abalone on the menu. That’s the fun part, you can’t just have lobster and scallops.

What’s proving to be most popular with customers these days?

Crayfish bread. People love it. Fifty percent of our seats are bar seats, it’s a good snack for people. The Spanish mackerel crudo, it’s really beautiful. Lightly charred, marinated in escabeche, people really like those flavors.

Do you cook at home?

I try to cook at home. When you’re spending all your time at the restaurant it’s hard to have a time at home. Usually on my days at home I try to relax at home or go out to eat at other places. It’s nice to have someone cook for you.


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