In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite food movie? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?
In this edition, we talk to Tara Bryan, the senior culinary director at Jean-Georges Management, who’s been working with the restaurant group since 2017. These days, you’ll often find her at various Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants throughout New York and Connecticut — Perry Street, JoJo, Happy Monkey, and The Inn at Pound Ridge — and around the world, where she trains and educates other chefs in the restaurant group.
The Resy Questionnaire
1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?
Two sauces: a black pepper condiment for shrimp and a kumquat dressing that went with the chargrilled chicken at Spice Market (now closed). These two sauces changed my life. So much went into the sauces that the product was mind blowing. They’re both a process, and the whole dish comes together [because of them]. They remind me of flavors and memories of London and New York at Spice Market. Every time I make and taste them, they bring back nostalgic feelings. They were two of the signature sauces of Spice Market.
2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?
Nothing will beat a freshly sharpened kitchen knife for me. It makes all of the cuts so much more pleasant and easier than having a dull knife. When you have a dull knife, you put in twice as much work to achieve a cut that isn’t as clean.
3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?
Maldon sea salt, chile flakes, Yorkshire tea bags, garam masala, and a good olive oil.
4. What’s your favorite place to get a slice in New York?
Mama’s TOO! on the Upper West Side – soooooo good.
5. Favorite cookbook?
This is a hard question. Back in my 20s I brought so many books, books that included things like techniques, different cuisines, and famous restaurant books. Now I just look for books that showcase just good tasting food. Books like those from Ottolenghi.
6. Your drink of choice?
Grey Goose and soda with loads of fresh lime wedges.
7. Favorite food movie?
“Chef.” It just hits you in the heart. It’s realistic and comforting. I could watch that movie over and over again. It’s a feel-good movie; the beginning is quite brutal and emotional and it turns in the best way. It’s such a great story and well-acted.
8. Your ideal dinner party guest, dead or alive?
I didn’t grow up knowing a huge amount about Anthony Bourdain but over time, I’ve grown to learn more and respect him. I would love to cook with him and then enjoy the meal together after, where I’d ask him so many questions about anything and everything.
9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?
One of the people whom I admire the most is Greg Brainin, our executive vice president of culinary development. The way his mind works, the way he has an idea and creates something beautiful and delicious from it … I wish that I had even half of that creativity and skill. He can sit on a plane for a few hours and get off with more than six recipes written down. It’s mind blowing!
10. The greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?
Visiting The French Laundry. The service was impeccable and the food was amazing. The whole experience. It was one of my first splurgiest meals — we went all out, and I just thought, wow. It was about seven years ago, and again, one of my first meals like this. Truly remarkable.
11. Your greatest professional achievement?
Becoming the first female director for Jean-Georges has been one of my greatest achievements. Paving the way for many more in the future. From being a cook in London to now traveling the world, educating, and more … it’s truly a moment of wow for me.
12. What single dish best describes your personality?
A spicy chicken curry.
13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?
I would have to say one of Jean-Georges’ restaurants back when he had a handful of restaurants, not 60 around the world. Either JoJo or 66. So many of our team members worked there. To go and see where my bosses started would be amazing. These restaurants were the birthplaces of so many of our team members, signature dishes, recipes, and Jean-Georges himself.
14. Your favorite meal from childhood?
It would have to be my grandmother’s saag with chapatis. It was the best childhood food; every time we went to my grandmother’s house, around once a week, she would make it for us. To this day, my dad still makes it for us every time I’m back in the U.K.
15. Your wish for the restaurant industry?
Moving toward more of a work-life balance. We’re not there yet. I wish everyone in our industry had all the benefits they deserve from working so hard to feed others.
16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?
That’s a tough question. I have always pushed myself to excel at whatever I do and can be quite hard on myself at times. I think something everyone needs a bit more of is self-love — taking care of our own wellbeing and happiness.
I think I connect well with people. I travel the world and deal with all types of people, cultures, and styles. In Doha, for instance, they have 52 countries represented in their staff and I am able to connect with all of them. I think coming from an Indian background but living in London has helped me with this, and it’s something I am proud of, as you build lifetime relationships that way.
17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?
Barcelona. I’ve never been but I’ve heard and seen so many delicious treats that I would love to just explore and indulge.
18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?
A good steak. I don’t mind splurging on a delicious and well-cooked piece of steak. My favorite steakhouse in the city is Keens.
19. What do you value most in restaurants?
Good service and good food. It sounds so simple but if either one is lacking, then it can change your experience and differentiates a returning or loyal guest from a one-time diner.
20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?
I thought long and hard about this. And there are only two things that spring to mind: A really good cheeseburger with fries. It’s one of my weaknesses. I can crush a burger anytime. Or a big bowl of my grandmother’s saag and unlimited chapatis.
JoJo by Jean-Georges is open for weekend brunch from noon to 3 p.m. and daily for dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Perry Street by Jean-Georges and Cedric is open for weekend brunch from noon to 3 p.m. and daily for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.