A Conversation with Acclaimed Chef Jonathan Benno

January 12, 2023, 6:07.42 pm ET  

Photo: Chef Jonathan Benno                                                           

Jonathan Benno, whose namesake restaurant, Benno, earned him a Michelin star before closing during the pandemic, is now the Chief Culinary Officer of Apicii, overseeing several new projects at the recently opened Grayson Hotel, including a new restaurant called Harta. Chef Benno also helmed the kitchen at Thomas Keller’s three-star Per Se, in addition to holding positions at The French Laundry, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern and Lincoln Ristorante.  

In our new Q&A Series, CITITOUR had a chance to ask Chef Benno about his recent endeavors:

QUESTION: What do you want people to think about when they come into Harta? What is the goal of the restaurant and where do you see it going in the future?

BENNO: "Harta is a casual Mediterranean restaurant located in the Grayson Hotel that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. As we build momentum and look to the spring to activate the outdoor spaces, we encourage our guests at Harta to build a meal of shared plates. The Mediterranean-driven menu created by executive chef Mark Zuckerman is full of bold flavors from vegetable, seafood and meat dishes."

QUESTION: We understand you are planning two new concepts at the Grayson Hotel; a wine and tapas bar called Bar Harta, and a taco garden, called Tacalle, next spring. What can diners expect?

BENNO: "Bar Harta will be a large, primarily outdoor, wine bar and tapas restaurant located directly above Harta restaurant. Like Harta, the wine bar will draw inspiration from Italy, France and Spain for the wine list and small plates menu. The large outdoor space lends itself to groups and celebrations.

Tacalle will be located on the south side of the hotel (38th between 5th and 6th) in a beautiful courtyard. There will be a taco truck and table seating. The truck will serve tacos, quesadillas and tostadas along with beer, wine and margaritas. We look forward to serving guests for lunch, happy hour, dinner, events and celebrations."

QUESTIONHow would you describe your current team?  Have you brought people with you from Benno?

BENNO: "We have a great team in the dining room and in the kitchen. Our general manager Ashley Sinon worked with us at Benno along with executive chef Mark Zuckerman and sous chefs Patrick Hanrahan, Spencer Yuen and John Tomacruz."

QUESTION: 2022 seems to be a year of comebacks for the restaurant industry. We’ve been seeing a steady stream of new restaurant openings, including Harta. Where do you see the restaurant industry heading in the 2023? Do you think we are getting past the pandemic or will it be felt for years to come?

BENNO: "We just finished the holiday season here in New York and it was great to see the city bustling with locals and tourists. Bars and restaurants were busy and people were out celebrating. My hope is that we can build on this leading up to the spring. We have five great outdoor spaces at the Grayson and we are really excited to get them open.

COVID remains a challenge for all of us. I believe our industry and the world is forever changed by the pandemic."

We did pose a question to Jonathan Benno about the closing of Benno and if he had any regrets.  He declined.

We’d like to thank Chef Benno for participating in our Q&A series and wish him, and his team, much success!

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