Hot chef: Richard Kuo on team effort and more desserts at Pearl & Ash

Richard Kuo is in the kitchen at Pearl & Ash (220 Bowery, 212-837-2370). Credit: Provided
Richard Kuo is in the kitchen at Pearl & Ash, 220 Bowery, 212-837-2370.
Credit: Provided

Born in Taiwan, raised in Australia and now cooking on the Bowery, chef Richard Kuo brings his worldly view to a tiny slice of Lower Manhattan where he’s making his mark — one small plate at a time — at Pearl and Ash. Not even a year old, the overwhelming response to the downtown spot has been ultimately positive, none of which is lost on Richard. “I never thought we’d be so well-received,” he said, adding that the praise has allowed him and his team to stay creative as they plug away. We caught up with Richard and discussed the illusion of simplistic cooking and the guilty pleasure that is Popeye’s fried chicken.

You’re cooking on the Bowery by way of a Taiwanese birth, an Australian upbringing and culinary education. Why New York? What made you want to come here?
I was classically trained through a government trade school (which is the standard in Australia). Originally, I was taking a little time off at a ski resort in Vermont when I decided I wanted to move to Montreal. In the process of heading up there, I stopped into New York to stage at WD-50. … I stayed for a few weeks, during which I was offered a job, so I just ended up staying.

What about your varied background can be seen in your cooking?
Earlier in my career I mainly focused on fine dining establishments. As I grew professionally, I realized the importance of having a rounded skill set, so I took advantage of the multitude of cuisines in Australia and started exploring each and every one of them. One of the most visible aspects of this is the use of different spices and blends. A lot of the time I would layer them into components then build a dish and proteins around those components.

Your dishes stand out in that they’re seemingly simple, yet rather complex. Would you say that’s your signature take?
One of the most striking similarities between dishes is the apparent simplicity. Due to the fact that this is an all-electric kitchen and the space is very small, I had to be very creative with the way I design the dishes. The majority of the work is done during prep time, which makes pickup and plating very fast. Certain things may take a day or two to cook — like the octopus, where most of the flavors are embedded into the protein during this time. When it makes it onto the plate, there is just the puree and garnish. The dish carries three components; it’s very simple and clean.

Your dessert menu is limited but memorable. Was this deliberate?
In the beginning it had to be small because of staffing and facility restraints as we were doing everything ourselves. Now that we are rebuilding our basement area and we have a pastry chef on board, that is going to change.

We spoke about Pearl & Ash being a team effort. What’s a typical collaboration like with your partners?
A lot of the times they will come to me with an idea, then it will be up to me to create this product, such as the Fernet Branca ice cream sandwich, which was [general manager Branden McRill]‘s idea. I’m currently working with Patrick [Cappiello, the wine director] on a series of wine dinners where I’m designing each dish around specific types of wines. Patrick gives me guidelines and parameters on what kind of protein, garnishes, flavor, texture, etc. he would like, and I go from there.

What’s your favorite place to eat when you’re off-duty?
I love going to Tacqueria on the Lower East Side. Food there is simple, tasty and consistent. Believe it or not, I love fried chicken and I go to Popeye’s whenever I get a chance. It may not necessarily be the world’s best fried chicken, but it’s delicious and consistent. I like consistency.

Pearl & Ash, 220 Bowery, 212-837-2370, www.pearlandash.com



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: Lesbians, men most likely…

Lesbians, men most likely to achieve orgasm Location: U.S. Study subjects: 2,850 people Results: Whether you find it shocking or not, a new study reports that…

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.