A month ago last week, Chef Gregory Torrech and his business partners Noah Sexton and Joe Dell’Armi opened this establishment in the up and coming Communipaw neighborhood of Jersey City. You may recall Chef Torrech from his kitchens at Brown and 6th Street Kitchen, both of which were featured on this blog, and if you attended New York Kitchen’s On The Line event last fall where he represented our consulting company SUPPER’D.
Modern American Eatery, or MAE, has an American menu with Southern and Latin influences, which reflect Chef Torrech’s Puerto Rican roots and Florida upbringing. For this restaurant, Torrech felt that straight-forward comforting food met the community’s need for an inviting full service eatery. This project is Torrech’s first as both chef and owner, and he believes that “as you mature as a chef, you apply your accumulated experience and ability to adjust to situations. Owning a restaurant offers a great opportunity to cater to your specific demographic. With MAE, our goal is to provide the neighborhood with a much-needed service, while making people happy; we strive to give people what they deserve”. For those of you who are not familiar with Jersey City, MAE is the only full service restaurant in Communipaw, and about a mile from the more bustling, gentrified downtown.
The pleasure Torrech derives from creating food that makes people happy is what inspired him to become a chef. The first thing he ever cooked was Pollo con Funghi, which he made for his mother and sister when he was sixteen. He recalls how upset his mother was at the incredible mess he had made of her kitchen, and how as she ate, the anger subsided and was replaced by a big smile.
When it’s his turn to cook at home, Torrech will perfect a recipe over time, such as this Nor’easter Pork Stew recipe, which was developed over the fall, thoroughly enjoyed over the winter (I did lots of that enjoying), and a new incarnation of which is now a MAE favorite.
Chef Torrech’s favorite restaurant is JG Melon’s. He likes its old school New York City feel, the consistency of the place day in and day out, and of course its famous burger. He is a fan of, you guessed it, this blog as well as Frites and Fries. His all-time favorite cookbook is The French Laundry.
There are usually four people in MAE’s vibrant open kitchen, including prep-cook/dishwashers. The day of our shoot found one of the owners, Noah, who believes it’s important to know every aspect of the business, training on the line.
Though MAE has only been open just over a month, we had to ask what is next for Chef Torrech. “It depends on the place, but I could definitely see my partners and I bringing an idea of Noah’s to life: an intimate, four table restaurant with two seatings and a chalkboard menu. The food I would create for the place would be more adventurous though still American. I see this happening sometime rather soon!”
Well, you know we’ll keep you posted when that happens! For the time being, be sure to check out MAE, which is open for dinner and brunch, and for lunch starting next week. 339 Communipaw Avenue, Jersey City www.maerestaurant.com/
[click here to see more photos]