Seriously, is Thanksgiving Contra's biggest day of the year?
The Contra co-founder, NYC chef, erstwhile fussy eater and wannabe DJ, Jeremiah Stone, talks turkey
Contra is a fairly exacting restaurant. It offers an ambitious set menu, as well as a vegetarian option, featuring local and seasonal ingredients. Seasonal in this instance means produce that’s thriving on farms right now; squash and sunchoke [Jerusalem artichoke] currently feature on its menu.
Yet Contra does occasionally make concessions to the social seasons too; in an early review, published in GQ Magazine, restaurant critic Alan Richman praised a main course of turkey, served during Thanksgiving week.
Surprised? Perhaps you shouldn’t be. As chef and co-founder Jeremiah Stone explains in A Very Serious Cookbook (written with Contra’s co-founder chef, Fabián von Hauske), cooking for other people was something he discovered via this hallowed American meal.
Having started out as a fussy eater, Stone took an interest in preparing meals for himself in early adulthood, and soon grew to love it.
“I started cooking more for myself, for my family, and for fun,” he recalls in the book. “Eventually I even took over half the Thanksgiving meal, which became my favorite day of the year, my true happy place. Finding such pleasure in leading the biggest and most important meal of the year lead to me cooking for myself on a regular basis. I remember buying my first real knife (it was ceramic) and thinking, “Now I’m able to cut through a clove of garlic!” It’s the little things.”
He hadn’t quite settled on a cookery career; he still liked the idea of becoming a famous DJ. However, Stone’s sister ended landing him a job behind the bar at a restaurant, and eventually he moved into the kitchens.
“At some point my manager must have seen some semblance of potential and said it was time I go to culinary school to push myself further,” he writes. ”I took his advice and enrolled in the first culinary school in Manhattan that would take me.” That was The French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), which is where he met Von Hauske, and the rest is history. The DJ circuit loss was the restaurant word’s gain; and that’s something we should all give thanks for.
For more on the recipe to Stone and Von Hauske order a copy of A Very Serious Cookbook here.