The Chef Residency Is the Restaurant World’s Most Exciting Trend 

From luxury resorts to tiny apartments, chefs are increasingly cooking in kitchens that are not their own

March 20, 2024 6:43 am
Chef Jeremiah Stone cooking at the Impression Makers Supper Club Series
Chef Jeremiah Stone cooking at the Impression Makers Supper Club Series
Impression Moxché by Secrets

They looked like a pile of stolen crystals. Trapezoid of raw bass, a ghostly rose quartz. Verbena granita, fat icy flakes of crushed jade. An anointing of oil, some salt, a single leaf of nasturtium like a lid on top. This clean, herbal, citrusy crudo was a production of Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, the chefs-owners whose confident ingredient pairings and peekaboo presentations influenced a generation of cooks at Contra in New York. But I didn’t have this dish at Contra, or even in NYC. The six-course tasting menu debuted last November — 20 days after Stone and von Hauske Valtierra closed Contra for good — at Teodoro. Heard of it?

Probably not. Furnished with a showpiece open kitchen and stunning sea views through floor-to-ceiling windows, Teodoro is the new flagship restaurant at Riviera Maya’s Impression Moxché by Secrets. Yes, that Secrets, recently adopted by the Hyatt family of hotels and looking to redefine all-inclusive resorts as places where you might actually be excited to eat. The dinner was the centerpiece of a weekend engagement with the New York chefs, the first in the Impression Makers Supper Club series. Pop-ups, residencies, retreats — call them what you like, but this kind of culinary programming is becoming more and more prevalent as chefs at all levels of their careers become less moored to the constraints of their restaurant kitchens, if they have restaurant kitchens at all.

A dish from Stone and von Hauske Valtierra at Impression Makers Supper Club
A dish from Stone and von Hauske Valtierra at Impression Makers Supper Club
Impression Moxché by Secrets

“We do a lot of different collaborations both on-site and offsite,” says Stone, who described the Impression Moxché weekend as a right-place, right-time invitation. Contra was wrapping up its decade-long run. Von Hauske Valtierra’s family, who live in Mexico City, have a house nearby in Tulum. A weekend in the tropics had to have sounded good. “Sometimes we do things that are really far away because it’s an opportunity to travel.”

Other notable chefs logging frequent flier miles: Fred Morin of Montreal’s Joe Beef, appearing at Auberge’s White Barn Inn in Maine for an “immersive culinary weekend” this May; Mauro Colagreco of Michelin-starred Mirazur flitting from the South of France to limited residencies in Singapore, Sydney and Los Cabos; Alon Shaya launching the Safta 1964 residency in April at the Wynn in Vegas. 

Not to be outdone by its Mayan neighbor, last month, Rosewood Mayakoba hosted Rockies on the Riviera, which featured three Colorado stars: bartender Christian Hammerdorfer of Yacht Club, chef Ian Palazzola of Frasca Food and Wine and chef Michael Diaz de Leon, who’d just left Denver’s Brutø in December.

“The programming really drives demand and provides exposure for our social community and our engagement because the content is absolutely fantastic,” says Tom Puntel, Rosewood Mayakoba’s Director of Sales and Marketing. And they’re mutually beneficial. “These men and women building their careers around culinary, they deserve a break, and when they’re in a luxury environment, not in their kitchen, they’re much more approachable to guests. I think people really like that,” he adds. 

For some chefs, this fertile new landscape of opportunities provides a pleasant break from the day-to-day of running a restaurant. For others, like Ari Miller, it provides a vital safety net. After closing his acclaimed Musi BYOB in Philadelphia, Miller relocated to New York to be the chef at Ivan Ramen, a situation that ended badly last year. “Ultimately, you have to pay your rent, you have to buy yourself food,” Miller says. He adds that in the not-too-distant past, he “would’ve had to go right back to another restaurant.”

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Here’s what he’s done instead: private cheffing for athletes and HNWIs (he has an agent who secures these lucrative gigs); penning a Substack (he’s a former journalist); going viral with a profanity-laced video for green-and-gold-striped tortellini (“I’m fucking making squiggle pasta on Instagram; what the fuck do I have left?,” he mused in a droll voice-over); and traveling, of course, to Rome, San Miguel de Allende and Hong Kong with his wife, Kiki Aranita, herself a talented ex-restaurant chef-owner, writer, fabric artist and client of Hone Talent, Whetstone Media’s portfolio of these types of telegenic, multi-hyphenate culinarians-for-hire.

“It’s a huge luxury to not have a ‘traditional’ job and still be able to function while I look for a new space, but the hustle is just as aggressive as running a restaurant,” Miller says. And it often comes with the double-edged sword of elation and aggravation that accompanies constantly cooking in different — and differently equipped — kitchens. 

“Creativity doesn’t just take the form of the ingredients you use to express a particular dish,” he says. “They’ve gotta express the creativity of the constraints of cooking on a nonprofessional range, near a sensitive smoke detector, with limited counter space, without a deep-fryer. It can be frustrating and satisfying trying to cook with the illusion of professional results in a nonprofessional kitchen.”

This is sometimes true even in a professional kitchen. “It’s me, two induction burners and a cutting board — no dishwasher, no prep,” Jay Wolman, one of our 20 Chefs to Watch in 2024, tells me from London, where he was about to wrap a month long turn at the snug wine bar 107 (formerly P. Franco) after stops in Brooklyn, Marseille and Brussels. “I’m really pushing the limits, and these restrictions help me be creative.”

Wolman’s nomadic restaurant is called Intermission, “a perfect name since it could be a week, it could be a month,” the Houston-born, Miami-raised chef says. He doesn’t have any gastronomic stars or medals (yet), but the success he’s found proves this trend is “happening at all levels. You don’t need to be a chef with a ton of awards to do this, to be relevant and for people to be interested.”

Interested they are. East Londoners packed 107 like matches in a box for Wolman’s red mullet with pink-fir and prawn-head aioli, Irish oysters with forced rhubarb, and bay-leaf panna cotta — dishes representing a style Seattle’s Renee Erickson described as “gorgeous, simple and ingredient- and location-focused” in her nomination of Wolman for “Chefs to Watch.” “I admire his desire to travel and learn, all while making delicious food,” she added.

“I think residencies are the future,” Wolman said in his “Chefs to Watch” Q&A. “Great chefs no longer need to be attached to a restaurant to be busy. I love the idea of being somewhere for a moment in time — creating that memory for yourself and for others and then moving onto the next one.” Now back in New York, he’s talking with Erickson and Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s legendary Tartine about future Intermission events. “Then,” he says, “who knows?”


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