the odds

221 East 6th Street
MAY 28, 2013

KEYWORDS: "YOU SPEAK LIKE A GREEN CHEF /

UNSIFTED IN SUCH PERILOUS CIRCUMSTANCES"

 

When we go out to eat, we're paying for an expertise, generally regional, or in hospitality or technique. Chef Sasha Gregkind is against this idea. “There’s too much comfort, too much affability, not enough danger in the New York dining scene. Who is really making things happen? More specifically, who is making it a point to challenge not only the diners but the chefs as well?”

Some would suggest that a chef’s life is challenging enough already. There is the challenge of keeping all your fingers when chopping, of trying not to get burned several times over in the course of a workday, or of keeping up quality when there are people waiting two hours in line. But that's not good enough for Gregkind.

Gregkind is not a skilled chef, he's never even worked as a short order cook. After leaving college to be a part of the the Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont, he moved to New York with the idea that he wanted to create a new kind of performance art, a new kind of theatre. He bussed tables, washed dishes, attempted to write a one-person monologue from the perspective of a garden-grown cabbage, and then discovered food as performance while watching a marathon of Top Chef, Chopped, Cupcakapocalypse, Buttered Biscuit Beatdown, and So You Call That a Bernaise?

“He really has no idea what he’s doing,” Gregkind's partner, Kevin Lee, owner of The Odds, says proudly. “Years of being an artist, thriving off ramen noodles and pasta. I mean, you hear about that all the time, but he really was sleeping under somebody's desk on a pillow of packages of ramen. Today I handed him some fennel and he spent a solid twenty minutes smelling it. Yesterday I just called arugula ‘rocket’ and he nodded, but you could tell that he thought I was insane. It’s glorious. We could be shut down any day. ANY DAY!” he smiles broadly, shaking me by the shoulders slightly while hopping up and down. His happiness at the prospect is as paradoxical as the the restaurant itself. Perhaps that’s giving paradoxes short shrift.

The Odds’ clientiele are there for an experience in naïveté and determination instead of expertise, and thus far it has paid off. People are fascinated with his inexperience and unwordliness, the same way they might be if a paleolethic man suddenly wandered into Whole Foods. But Gregkind has boldly stayed out of the spotlight until now. “He's been offered book deals, TV shows, someone wanted to make a documentary,” says Lee. “He won't do it. He wants to keep this experience, at least while the restaurant is here, pure.”

But we've seen this story before. Lee eventually they will run out of foodstuffs to confuse his chef; or perhaps Gregkind will find himself on the Food Network and someone will adorn his face with sport sunglasses and smear his hair with aggressive hair styling product, and The Odds will be, as they say, evened. I find myself thinking of how John Keats's patrons paid him as little as possible in order to keep an earthy authenticity in his poetry. Maybe there is too much success at The Odds. And maybe I, food critic at large, am part of the problem.

Lee is undaunted by all of this. “That's a long way away,” he says, “A looooong way away. He's good now, but no nothing's really going to suffer if he gets even better.”

And so it goes. Grekind takes his first impressions of food and turns them into a meal that is a mystery unto himself. Radishes top ravioli, watercress gets fried and battered, and then there's the advent of the first eel sandwich. I was suspect at first: sometimes it seems too naïve and sometimes it seems too good. But now I’m convinced. Every time he comes back to cook something he barely knew existed, no matter how realized, or more likely, bizarre the outcome is, it’s a victory for food.

 

Next: Utnsil offers three menus, one for food,
one for drink, and one for utensils.

 

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