BRIAN YOUNG


“The way some people follow sports is the way my family follows restaurants in Vancouver”, jokes Brian Young, who, like most Chinese offspring, grew up in a household where food was the focus of family gatherings. He remembers his parents carefully planning family Sunday dinners, from choosing dishes to charting ingredient sourcing. One of his fondest childhood memories is of shopping in an open air market near his home in Vancouver, Canada. “There were huge tanks of fresh seafood and I loved pointing out which fish, crab or clam I wanted for dinner – it wasn’t a morose thing, rather it encouraged me to appreciate and respect the food chain.”

Young learned about food purchasing and cooking “through osmosis” from his family and by the age of 14 had decided he wanted to become a chef. When he graduated from high school at 16, Young headed for Paris to enroll in the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school. After his studies there, he got a job at the Michelin two-star Le Laurent, where he worked for a year, before embarking on a tour of France, during which he completed externships at Alain Chapel in Mionnay and The Crillon in Paris.

Now fluent in French, Young returned to North America in 1988 to take a job as at the acclaimed Wheatleigh in Lenox, MA, a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux international association of exclusive, luxurious hotels and restaurants. Not only did it add another impressive entry in his growing French cuisine resume, but the job changed his life – Young met his wife, Gia. Still he always considered Wheatleigh a stepping stone. Young’s career sites were firmly set on New York City and its roster of four star restaurants. In 1991, he broke from his classic French focus to work at the seminal Quilted Giraffe in New York, preparing an avant-garde fusion of French and Japanese cuisine. Young returned to his gastronomic roots at Le Bernardin for a three year stint with Eric Ripert, Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze, starting as a line cook and working his way up to chef de cuisine. The next three years were spent at The Sony Club as chef de cuisine working with Barry Wine, Morgen Jacobsen, Heather Carlucci and Morimoto.

Young’s next move was to POP, which he opened as executive chef. He subsequently played the same roll at Citeralla and at Harvest on Hudson, which became one of Zagat’s top-rated Westchester County restaurant during his tenure and where Young gained some experience in directing a kitchen geared to serving significant volume. “On Fridays and Saturdays, we were often doing up to 700 covers a night; it was eye opening, forcing me to think differently about how a kitchen should work,” he recalls.

As fate - or coincidence - would have it, it was during his 2 years at Harvest on Hudson, that Young first entered the 13,000 square foot kitchen of Tavern on the Green. “One of our mutual vendors brought me over for a tour. Of course I was struck by the enormity of the operation and intrigued by its challenges. At the time I remember thinking ‘I could do this; I’d like to do this!’” However, there would be a detour before Tavern’s would be a kitchen he could call his own in the guise of Mainland, an upscale contemporary Chinese restaurant for which Young was offered the opportunity to become a partner, as well as executive chef. It was the first time he had drawn upon his Chinese heritage in his professional life and the city’s food press responded very favorably. But the partnership proved fractious, so Young bowed out of it at about the same time that Tavern on the Green’s management was embarking on a search for a new chef.

Young made his interest in the job known and convinced owner Jennifer LeRoy he was the man to fulfill her goal of elevating the food at Tavern on the Green, to make it more stylish contemporary and sophisticated. Young joined the Tavern team in March 2007 with a vision of the melting pot sensibility that defines 21st century American cuisine for its menus and the mantra of “bringing exceptional quality to exceptional volume.” He used the latter to recruit a number of culinarians with whom he had worked previously to his management team, most of whom left executive chef or chef de cuisine positions to join him. Like Young, they were excited by the challenges Tavern presents and inspired by his determination to infuse the food with simple, ingredient driven cuisine, based on purity and flavor.

Having what he recognizes as the luxury of so large and experienced a team in place, enables Young to more fully enjoy his free time at home in Dobbs Ferry, NY with Gia and their three children. Still, he’s often not far from the kitchen, continuing his family’s tradition of big Sunday dinners, cooking for his extended family, neighbors and friends. When not cooking for recreation, Brian is a sporting clay (also known as golf with a gun) enthusiast. Young points out “On some days at Tavern, with 1200 à la carte reservations for dinner and simultaneous multiple private events, it’s like knocking those clays down.” “Shooting” down one order at a time, Young brings his highly regarded culinary sensibility, creativity, and efficiency to the Tavern kitchen.

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