Forget Locavore or Farm-to-Chef; Danny Meyer Defines “Day-of” Cooking

At Gramercy Tavern, you know the day of the year by the garde manger.

As sleet hits our windows this morning with its icy tappity-tap, we’re amazed that there’s still one or two tomatoes hanging on at local markets and that many of the Brussels sprouts — till now anyway — hadn’t yet seen their first light frost, ensuring that extra sweetness.

And we’re reminded of what restaurateur and Union Square Hospitality Group founder Danny Meyer told us while we were researching the profile of Gramercy Tavern in the brand new issue of Edible Manhattan.

Tom Colicchio had just decided to leave the place as head chef after many years, and Meyer had another business proposal from current chef (and resident genius) Michael Anthony on his desk. “It hit me like a lightening bolt,” said Meyer, “that he could be an an absolutely ideal second chef for Gramercy Tavern, his cooking style, while different from Tom’s, was also what I call ‘day-of cooking’: You knew what day of the year it was, and where you were. It was exactly the sense that I got tasting Mike’s food. … “You should know exactly where you are in the year,” Meyer added about Anthony’s approach to the menu, “that’s his goal.”

It’s one he achieves, and one of the reasons we love Anthony and Gramercy Tavern, as you’ll read in the piece. But today we’re struck by how right Meyer is: That really seasonal food isn’t fall=squash or summer=tomatoes, but a slow progression that changes literally by day and is never the same any week of any year. And thus, day-of-cooking has now been coined. Who knew Meyer was a wordsmith as well as one of the city’s finest restaurateurs?

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.