Born and raised in New York City, Chef Dan Kluger went from being a prep cook at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café to creating his own restaurant empire. CITITOUR recently caught up with Chef Kluger to discuss his past and present.
CITITOUR: You have been on a tear lately creating a mini-empire at Hudson Yards with Greywind, The Bakery at Greywind and Spygold cocktail bar beneath Greywind. That’s quite an undertaking, especially coming out of the pandemic. How is it going?
CHEF KLUGER: It was a big undertaking and we certainly have come across challenges but ultimately, we have felt very confident about each concept along the way. We worked really hard to ensure each concept has its own identity while also maintaining the same elevated experience, standards and voice throughout.
CITITOUR: At Greywind you rely heavily on seasonality. What can diners expect?
CHEF KLUGER: Our menu has dishes that have quickly become signatures like the "Cheese Its", the Tuna Sashimi and the Greywind Burger but, we also have dishes that will be new to the menu with each season featuring seasonal ingredients. Additionally there are dishes that will be mainstays on the menu however the featured component of the dish will change with each season- i.e. our house made focaccia included rhubarb in the spring and now includes tomatoes for our summer menu. Ultimately, I love cooking with the seasons and this is just the way we reflect that.
CITITOUR: We noticed you’re not just cooking chicken on the rotisserie. You’re cooking cauliflower. Tell us about it.
CHEF KLUGER: We were very excited about having the rotisserie in the kitchen and we knew from the beginning that we wanted to be creative with how to use it. It felt like a miss to not do a rotisserie chicken so we do have a rotisserie chicken entrée on the menu but we also worked with other more unexpected ingredients to see what could work well and we're happy with how the cauliflower on the menu turned out
CITITOUR: Spygold has a speakeasy vibe. Are you going for a different crowd?
CHEF KLUGER: Not necessarily a different crowd but, we wanted to go for a different experience. The inspiration behind the Greywind dining room is a modern farmhouse or estate that you might find in the Hudson Valley and we wanted Spygold to have the feeling of the modern cigar room or drawing room that you might find in that same house. The cocktail menu also highlights seasonal ingredients as well as unique versions of classics you might already be familiar with.
CITITOUR: Do you have any other projects in the works or planned for 2024 and beyond?
CHEF KLUGER: No, for right now we are focusing on getting Loring Place back to pre-pandemic levels and growing all the concepts in Hudson Yards as we get ready to transition to the fall menus.
CITITOUR: You are a native New Yorker. In fact, we understand you named your first restaurant, Loring Place, after the street in the Bronx where your father grew up. That is quite a tribute. How did he influence you on this journey?
CHEF KLUGER: He was the best! It was hard to not have him here for my first restaurant but I know he would love it. He loved cooking and loved good food but it wasn’t his profession and I don’t think ever anticipated it would be mine. We grew up watching cooking shows together and as I got older and further into my career he would consistently send me articles and clippings about all things restaurant related.
CITITOUR: You have worked at several fine dining establishments, including ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina, which was named Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation while you were Executive Chef. How was that experience and did it lay the groundwork for Loring Place?
CHEF KLUGER: Working with the team there was a very rewarding experience and I learned a lot from Jean Georges and his corporate chef Greg Brainin during that time, especially about running a business. I always wanted to eventually open my own project and felt prepared to take the risk so I went for it.
CITITOUR: At Loring Place, much of the food is prepared on a wood-fired grill and oven, including pizzas. Do you like working with live fire?
CHEF KLUGER: It’s my favorite way to cook. Experimenting with different, unexpected ingredients on open fire whether it’s on the wood-fired oven or grill at the restaurant or my grill at home has led to many of our most signature dishes on the Loring Place menu.
CITITOUR: Are you concerned New York City may phase out wood-fired ovens to cut down on carbon emissions or make them very expensive to operate?
CHEF KLUGER: Well they are already very expensive to operate so it can’t get much worse! I wouldn’t be surprised if they get phased out and if that happens, we will figure out another way to still make tasty food!
CITITOUR: Speaking of pizza, you also operate Washington Squares, a to-go pizza concept. Do you have any plans to expand it?
CHEF KLUGER: We are open to it, we are very proud of the pizzas and we have been working hard to expand the brand including selling nationwide on Goldbelly. We also do a weekly pop up every week in the bar room at Loring Place featuring Washington Squares pizzas alongside a local beverage partner. The pop up led to our partnership with Macari Vineyards and the pizzas are available at their winery for the summer.
CITITOUR: Finally, what does Chef Dan Kluger like to do when he’s not cooking and creating restaurant empires?
CHEF KLUGER: I like to grill at home, work on house projects, relax with my family and hike with my two dogs.
We’d like to thank Chef Kluger for taking the time to grant us this interview and wish him, and his team, much success in the future.
A CONVERSATION WITH CELEBRATED CHEF JEREMY SALAMON