The Award-winning Gramercy Tavern chef turns up the heat with his great-grandfather's garlic, all the way from Naples
While many chefs source ingredients from farms, few can claim to have cultivated their own heirloom garlic. Unless they’re Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony of course.
Eight years ago the award-winning chef (anointed Best Chef New York City at the prestigious James Beard Awards in 2012) approached farmer Jim Wrobel with 15 mauve-hewed heads of garlic from his family’s garden in Ohio. The bulbs may have come by way of the Midwest, but originally they were farmed in Naples, Italy by Anthony’s great grandfather who transported the precious cloves to America over a century ago.
"The bulbs originally were farmed in Naples, Italy by Anthony’s great grandfather who transported the precious cloves to America over a century ago."
The chef hoped to continue the family legacy by having Wrobel, described by Anthony as a “garlic fanatic”, till the soil with the antique comestibles. The plan worked and the garlic flourished in its new home in Bridgewater, New York just outside of Utica. “[He was] very careful and thoughtful about every step of the process,” said Anthony of Wrobel. “He took on the challenge and has grown the garlic wonderfully maintaining the same taste aspects, the same visual line, and yet the size and health of it has grown.” But while Gramercy Tavern is hardly known as a dining room that reeks like a stinking rose, the kitchen uses more than 800 pounds of the now thriving Italian Red variety each year.
Keeping the Anthony’s culinary legacy alive was always important to the 40-something-year-old chef, but it became even more sacred after undergoing emergency open-heart surgery — which saved his life. And as luck would have it, garlic is one ingredient that protects the human ticker.