A couple of months ago I was in Boston and was shooting Chef Matthew Gaudet of West Bridge in Cambridge. I mentioned to him that I would be in Brooklyn and he immediately said you should go see my friends at Extra Fancy. I had seen a piece on them in the NY magazine and after talking with Chef Matthew, I was all in. The restaurant which I had heard termed “an upscale clam shack” is so much more than that. Situated on Metropolitan Ave in Williamsburg, it is in my mind a perfect pairing, if you will. With a killer cocktail program, and amazing takes on seafood fair, it is the perfect place to for one to call home.
I met up with the Executive Chef Sean Telo prior to opening, and we talked some and then he whipped up this amazing dish “Wild Caught Salmon Head Hot Pot- with in house Island Oyster Kimchi” (pictured below).
Below is a short interview I did with Chef Sean:
CM: How did you get started in the culinary industry? What made you want to become a chef?
CST: I started in the industry, professionally, when I was 14 years old. Up until then I had already known I wanted to be a cook, or at least do something with food. I was raised in a home where not just the eating of food, but the growing, sharing and culture took priority over everything. I was always jealous of my older brother because he was twice my size and my mom wouldn’t let me cook “until you can reach the stove without being on your tip toes.” Everything seemed so special about creating something with your hands that could be shared and enjoyed by others.
CM: Prior to Extra Fancy, where were you working?
CST: Before Fancy, I was the Executive Chef at STG Trattoria in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta isn’t where I’m from originally but it’s where I really grew up and really learned to cook on a whole other level. My time in Atlanta was, and remains one of the most important times of my life. Richard Blais, Steven Satterfield and the cooks who worked for them taught me how to be a professional chef and I owe the two chefs everything.
CM: What inspires you? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
CST: I, of course, look at what other chefs who I admire are doing, but honestly standing in the middle of the farmers market, fish market, or meat market is where I draw most inspiration. Being completely immersed in the food day in and day out is the only way that I can think of new ideas. There are things that every chef thinks about; flavor, texture, seasonality, vibrancy, and whether a dish you’re creating is interesting or played out. It’s intriguing, with the constant borage of food pictures on social media, I notice that a lot of people’s food looks more and more similar. That made it a goal for us to try and stay away from doing too many things that are “in trend.” We’re, of course, a neighborhood restaurant so we do have items that feed the neighborhood and that have been done before but are still personally important to us…but on our tasting menu especially, you’re eating very unique food I think.
CM: What cook books do you have in your repertoire?
CST: There’s so many. I guess my top five that I always have ready to look at certain recipes would be French Laundy, Alinea, The Gift of Southern Cooking, Root to Leaf and Chez Panisse.
CM: Describe your style of cooking?
CST: My personal style of cooking is market driven chef forward food. It can sometimes be Daintily Gluttonous. It isn’t necessarily the food you’re going to get as an everyday patron of Extra Fancy, but there are hints of it in everything. Our tasting menu is where my true style of cooking comes out. I like to treat ingredients simply and not overthink flavors or techniques. It’s my opinion that a lot of food tastes good before it ever arrives on our cutting boards, so it’s important to respect the integrity of the ingredient.
CM: What kind of atmosphere is Extra Fancy? What about your clientele?
CST: Depends what time you’re here. Later in the evening we become a very industry forward restaurant. We are where many of the cooks, chefs, servers, managers and bartenders come to after their services to eat and drink. We respect our guests so much and try and pass on the amount of care we have for them into the care we put into the food.
CM: What are you doing next?
CST: While I have no plans to leave Fancy, I will one day open my own restaurant which will focus on whole animal and hyper-seasonal cooking. Tentative name: “Fat Kid”
CM: Last question, if you could have any dish as your last meal, what is it?
CST: Easy- if I only had one meal to eat, it would be everything I’ve never had.