Chicken-fried duck and waffles? Shots with the head chef? It’s just a regular day at Tribeca’s recently opened restaurant, Distilled. Spearheaded by 25-year-old chef Shane Lyons, along with his two partners, this trendy eatery serves up comfort food in an even more comforting atmosphere. Since opening its doors in June, it’s quickly becoming a hot spot in the neighborhood. We called up Lyons to chat about the food and fun at his restaurant.
When did you start cooking?
I started cooking with my mom around 3 or 4. I got my first French knife, which was her knife from culinary school at 5 or 6 and my first restaurant job of any kind was washing dishes at a little catering place in LA at the age of 12.
Both of your parents are expert chefs. What was it like growing up in that environment?
It was great in that I ate a lot of good food. When I was really young, my mom was the executive chef at a hotel, so I didn't see her very often, but it was fun because they would teach me things before most people had a chance to learn them. It was like growing up in a mini-culinary school.
How do you think being a younger chef affects you in the kitchen?
I think that age only has whatever value you place on it. I personally respect experience and maturity, so being a young leader you have to always maintain composure. Sometimes, I feel that being younger I have to strive to be more mature because people will look for holes to punch in you for that reason. Luckily, I really haven't had that issue though. Everyone on my crew is great and we all respect each other's work.
What's the atmosphere like at Distilled?
Fun! We have a lot of fun at the restaurant. The whole staff just wanted to create an environment where the guest walks in and you're just having fun. There's great music, great food, great drinks and you're having a good time; it's a wonderful culture. My partners and I are kind of goofy and while we take what we do very seriously, we realize that we are hosting a party of sorts. When people sit at my chef's counter first thing that I ask them is, "Do you want a shot of moonshine?" It's just a fun way to get things going and by the end of the day the customer leaves very drunk and very happy.
What's your favorite item to cook from the menu?
It's the smaller things that I really get a kick out of, like smoking the duck breast or curing the duck for the duck and waffles. I'm always curious how it'll turn out when I do it and every time it just tastes amazing.
What's one piece of advice for other chefs?
Have fun! Don't take yourself too seriously. It's all about making the guest happy and if you're happy as the chef then it's a win for everyone. Sometime as chefs we forget that.