The Empire State Building’s flagship ground floor restaurant, STATE Grill and Bar, has tapped a new chef to match its eco-friendly rep.
As the new executive chef of the 10,000-square-foot eatery at the base of the famed Art Deco building, Morgan Jarrett says she has created a menu worthy of the company’s certification as an energy-saving “green” building.
“I have been known for plant-based cooking,” explained Jarrett, who formerly helmed the kitchen at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens’ Yellow Magnolia Cafe.
“I have always been about sourcing locally and being as green as possible. Now I call it ‘empire future.’ I am aligning my culinary vision with the building,” she added.
When the iconic tower built during the heights of the Great Depression was named a LEED Gold-certified building in 2011, it was the country’s tallest to receive that designation from the US Green Building Council. The retrofit, which started in 2009 with support from former president Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, resulted in water-saving restroom fixtures across all the bathrooms, recycled carpets and other recycling commitments. In 2014, Tony Malkin of Empire State Realty Trust said the building saved $7.5 million in energy costs in the first three years of the program.
Jarrett said she, too, is dedicated to reducing waste in her cooking. “I use every part of the animal and plant,” she says. One example: reusing the liquid in cans of chickpeas that is often tossed out.
The challenge is to create a menu that will attract tourists who have come to look at the view and local business execs looking for a regular place to lunch. LinkedIn, for example, occupies space in the building.
So while Jarrett has kept the eatery’s roasted cauliflower steak on the menu, she has updated it by marinating the cauliflower in fermented black beans and serving it on a cashew cream herb pistou in a farro wheat risotto, finished with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan — for $24.
She is also offering Delicata squash rings battered in cider beer and chickpea flour and served with tomato chutney for $13 — a play on stacked onion rings and ketchup. “It’s something that when people see it, it looks familiar, but it is something they have never had before,” Jarrett said.
Other new dishes include a $42 Lobster Newberg Pot Pie, which is a classic American dish updated with chanterelle mushrooms, sunchokes, peas and sherry.
She is also offering grilled Spanish octopus with cranberry bean salad, celery and charred lemon for $23, and a grilled swordfish steak with rainbow chard and lime caper butter for $38.
“We want to build on our foundation of regulars and loyalists who work in the building and guests who live and work nearby,” said Eric Kaplan of Delaware North’s Patina Restaurant Group, which operates STATE Grill and Bar and other top eateries at hot spots like Rockefeller Center’s skating rink.
Patina tapped Jarrett at a time when the Empire State Building is also seeking to attract more visitors each year with a years-long $165 million renovation that has resulted in a newly opened floor-to-ceiling glass observation deck that offers stunning 360-degree views of the city.
The deck is the third phase of a four-phase project that also resulted in a 10,000-square-foot museum opening on the second floor in July — complete with a 1930s-style room with a life-size King Kong poking through the walls.
Around 4 million tourists visit the building each year, generating around $130 million a year in revenue.
“This is the most recognized building in the world. It’s been fun to take this classic, iconic American place and add some fresh energy to it,” Jarrett said.
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