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Passion Practiced in the Dorm Room Promoted in the New Yorker

Pith Graduates from the Dorm

Jonah Reider was a senior at Columbia University when he became a famous chef.

Now he serves eight-course tasting menus in a ritzy Brooklyn town house.

There are plenty of weird ways to get famous these days, and seemingly countless methods for capitalizing on that fame—consider Jiff the Pomeranian, who, one assumes, never dreamed as a puppy in Illinois that his cuteness would eventually earn him tens of thousands of dollars per sponsored Instagram post. Jonah Reider was a senior at Columbia University, hosting dorm-cooked dinners for friends, when celebrity came knocking, in 2015. The school newspaper ran a review of the “restaurant,” called Pith, in Hogan Hall, suite 4-B, where Reider made creative use of a toaster oven and offered fare that included lamb chops and mole popcorn. Overnight, Pith became one of the “hottest” reservations in town, according to the New York Post and the Washington Post. Luckily Reider, like Team Jiffpom before him, knew how to spin a story, and, what’s more, he knew how to cook.

In April, Pith was reincarnated as a supper series, three nights a week, in a ritzy town house near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The other evening, a patron who’d dined in the dorm remarked on the aesthetic step up, from grubby linoleum and napkins by Bounty to Hans Wegner chairs and a wood-burning pizza oven. “Yeah, I’m chilling,” Reider said. He still speaks undergrad-ese—“dope,” “dank,” “sick,” and, inscrutably, “bread,” are favored adjectives.

In a back garden, where Reider grows herbs, ten diners snacked on fiddlehead ferns (“mad popular for some reason”) grilled with white miso, and a tasty unripe-strawberry-and-porcini-spiked beef tartare. “This is the perfect setup for a murder-mystery-dinner-type thing,” one patron whispered. There was something potentially terrifying about forced small talk with strangers and a lack of health-department oversight. But wines selected by a precocious sommelier at Blue Hill at Stone Barns helped things along. “I don’t know shit about wine,” Reider said, as he poured a delicious natural orange one from the Czech Republic.

With each dish of the eight-course procession, it became clearer that everything would be “all Gucci,” as he’d put it. Particularly Gucci: a pillowy yet rich spring-onion soubise with caviar; bruléed squash with lemon balm (Reider: “Tastes just like Froot Loops!”); buttery homemade pasta with morels and pea shoots; and a flawlessly seared Seattle wagyu sirloin.

After some huckleberry sorbet dusted with fennel pollen, most of the guests departed, and Reider and the return customer contemplated all that had changed. No more exams; far more trips to Australia bankrolled by KitchenAid. One thing remained the same: Reider still had to do all the dishes. (Tasting menu, $95.) 

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/22/pith-graduates-from-the-dorm