Photo: Evan Sung
As we continue to explore the flavors of New York City, and the forces behind them, we travel to Tatiana at Lincoln Center and its celebrated Chef de Cuisine Kamat Newman. Chef Newman was born in Centreville, Illinois and raised in St. Louis, and later attended culinary school in Chicago. She developed her own signature approach to cooking, which can be now experienced at Tatiana.
In our Q&A Series, CITITOUR had a chance to get to know Chef Newman and learn more about her cooking style:
CITITOUR: How would you describe your style of cooking and where do you draw your inspiration from?
NEWMAN: I would describe my style of cooking as free-form. I don't personally attempt to emulate any one specific cultural experience, as my life has been influenced by so many things as a Black American. My inspiration is drawn from my passion for beauty and my desire to communicate who I am through my craft.
CITITOUR: Can you tell us about some of the kitchens you’ve worked in prior to joining Tatiana and your work for SoHo House?
NEWMAN: There were only a handful of kitchens I worked in prior to Soho House and Tatiana. One of the most memorable places was this small whisky bar named “Small Batch.” Their primary focus of food is vegetarian, which I found extremely intriguing because whisky bar and vegetarian cuisine aren’t really two things I would put together in my mind. But somehow it worked, very well I might add.
CITITOUR: Were you surprised when Executive Chef Kwame Onwuachi chose you to be the Chef de Cuisine at Tatiana? Have you worked together before?
NEWMAN: I was overwhelmed with joy when I’d received the call from Chef Kwame wanting to personally congratulate me on getting the position. I was right in the middle of my work day. It was 3pm on September 5. I will never forget it because it was my birthday. This particular call took place after a very surprising visit from Chef Kwame at Wax Myrtles, located in the Thompson hotel downtown Austin, Texas. I had closed the night before so I was asleep well into the afternoon of the following day only to be woken up by several texts and missed calls telling me that Chef Kwame was dining at the restaurant! We met for coffee and the rest is history. I had never worked with him prior to working at Tatiana. It's been everything I could imagine and more.
CITITOUR: The food at Tatiana has been winning high praise from critics, including a Nigerian take on pastrami which I understand was a collaborative effort. How do your West African roots play into the type of food you are cooking now?
NEWMAN: Growing up unaware of the specifics of my African heritage, I always want to take the opportunity to immerse myself in the cultures that influence my family’s history. In doing research about West African food, I have found that it intertwines with a lot of the southern cuisine that is familiar to my palate. Pulling in influences from West Africa gives my food more purpose and more soul.
CITITOUR: What are two of your favorite dishes at Tatiana?
NEWMAN: The first is the Egusi Dumplings. Prior to working for Chef Kwame, I had never eaten egusi stew. I was simply floored when I took my fist bite in the Tatiana prep kitchen. The second would have to be the Braised Oxtails. The flavors are rich and decadent. It was honestly a shock when Chef Kwame allowed me to see the menu and I read that oxtail was in it. I had never associated oxtail with fine dining cuisine and yet, here it was in bold print. To see it be one of our top selling items brings my heart so much joy.
CITITOUR: When you are not leading the kitchen at Tatiana, what does Kamat Newman like to do in her spare time?
NEWMAN: In my spare time, I love to release steam by going to the gym. It's so freeing to be in this space to exert myself and just let loose. I am also a big fan of museums. Spending hours around art while Miles Davis plays through my headphones, I couldn't ask for a better way to spend an off day. Those museum days are often followed by a dinner reservation with some of my closest friends, where we satiate ourselves with delicious food and good wine.
CITITOUR: As a rising star in the food world, where do you see yourself five years from now?
NEWMAN: Five years from now? I have to imagine I will continue on the journey of giving myself and my craft to the world.
We’d like to than Chef Newman for participating in our Q&A series and wish her much success in the future!
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