EyeSwoon

The Heyward is a restaurant I have been close to even before its inception since one of the owners, Che Stipanovich, is one of my oldest friends in NYC. Not only did Che and I both began our NYC days in the hospitality industry – working together at a late-90’s lounge – but we are also creatives who share a strong point of view, attention to detail and a solid love of design and food. I have reveled in every last detail in the development of The Heyward and can proudly say that the initial vision is very close to what you see at the Williamsburg restaurant today.

The food scene is currently exploding in Charleston, but 3 years ago Che and his partners Matthew Hechter & Christopher Brandon, of Hudson Clearwater, were far ahead of the curve in concepting The Heyward. They took note of nuances in the heritage of Low Country cuisine to develop The Heyward’s menu. The restaurant was named after South Carolina poet DuBose Heyward.

I was very much inspired by their approach to materials and design. Rather than the good ole standard Brooklyn staple of reclaimed wood, industrial materials like black iron, zinc and bronze were used in abundance. Their harshness was offset with carefully placed curves throughout the space like arched windows and the semi-circle open kitchen, softening the overall aesthetic.The environment is equal parts Southern charm and industrial Williamsburg, with a color palette that takes you to the clapboard houses and gas lamp streets of Charleston and Savannah.

After years of hearing about the development of The Heyward, I finally indulged in the Southern Atlantic food when they opened their doors a few months back. The menu employs local, seasonal ingredients with distinct nods to the Carolinas, Virginia and Savannah. The food blew me away—jumbo shrimp and creamy grits with chorizo and charred Shishito peppers is the star of the show. I suppose you can’t really do Southern food without serving grits: order it, you won’t be sorry. Further exploration of the menu reveals a killer raw bar at a chef’s counter and a locally sourced, ocean-driven play on Southern food.

This all leads me to the man at the helm of the Heyward kitchen, Chef Derek Orrell. Orrell was the sous chef at Locanda Verde before becoming one of the youngest executive chefs in NYC at The Heyward in April. I met Derek and his wife Britt Maren (with whom I’ve baked a killer chocolate cake) that first night, and was immediately taken aback at his relaxed demeanor, his willingness to chat food with perfect strangers, and well, also by his youthful good looks. I mean this is one beautiful foodie/model couple—I could have swooned all evening long.

Derek exudes such an incredible passion and excitement that you get the sense he is not burned out by this fast-paced industry, rather he is fired-up—no pun intended. He speaks about each ingredient and dish with such zest and precision that you hang on his every word. You can feel his joy as he speaks, and that joy translates to his food, which is complex in flavor, yet simply executed. As we created this brook trout dish together, we went back and forth—I would ask him the usual swoonism questions which always spark the conversation, and he would take me through the culinary steps… to say I was in swoony heaven would be the understatement of the year.

Gosh, I love being in a professional kitchen. Snoop Derek’s recipe below and get yourself to The Heyward stat!

The Heyward

Swoonisms

  • Che Stipanovich, Co-Owner of The Heyward

    • WHAT WAS THE INITIAL VISION FOR THE HEYWARD?

      The initial vision for The Heyward is very close to what you see being executed now at the restaurant. We are very fortunate to have worked with a team that truly understood what we were shooting for and delivered it. We wanted to take a space like the old Zebulon, which was totally sewn into the fabric of the neighborhood we have all called home for so long and create something that felt fresh but familiar. An Old-World American bistro with a New-World approach to everything from food sourcing to making sure that nearly everything in the space had a story, a purpose.

      HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE FOOD AT THE HEYWARD? WHAT IS THE CORE VALUE REPRESENTED IN THE FOOD?

      We all were really turned on by what’s been happening over that last decade in cities like Charleston, Atlanta, and Nashville. We started to refer to it as the “golden triangle of the American culinary scene.” That excitement is what drove most of the early decisions about the menu and the design, it still does. We really felt the Northeast was/is ready to get into regional Southern cooking, to understand its nuance. Food and dishes change county to county down there. The possibilities are almost endless. We are leaning new things about this food every day, that what keeps it fresh, new.

      CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THE INSPIRATION FOR THE DESIGN AND DÉCOR OF THE RESTAURANT?

      Not to take anything away from any other place but Brooklyn has just played the reclaimed material card one too many times. When we set out to design the space, surfaces and materials were the first things we talked about. The design era is 1910-1920, just on the flip side of the industrial revolution, a real interesting time for design. People (who could afford it) were tossing out mother’s hand blown glassware in search of machine pressed ones. The era of the artisan days were numbered and mass production worked its way into daily life in a big way. That meant a lot of black iron, zinc, bronze, and ceramics. We softened all that by using a lot of curves in the space, you’ll find arched windows and ceilings, even the open kitchen is a semi-circle.  The color palette comes right out of the clapboard houses and gaslight streets of Charlestown and Savanna.

      DISH THAT TRULY REPRESENTS THE RESTAURANT? MOST POPULAR?

      Most popular is the Shrimp and Grits. You got to have it on the menu if you are going to do this kind of food but chef has added a diced cured chorizo and grilled shishito peppers, it’s insane! We bring our grains in from Anson Mills out of South Carolina. I could go on forever about the amazing things, Glenn Roberts has done at Anson and for food in general but Sean Brock and almost every other chef/restaurateur below the Mason-Dixson line has beaten me to it. Order it, you won’t be sorry.

  • Chef Derek Orrell

    • HOW DID YOU BECOME THE EXECUTIVE CHEF AT THE HEYWARD?

      I knew Matt and Chris before through friends, and met Che during the interview process. I was Sous Chef at Locanda Verde at the time and was looking to take that next step. I loved what Matt and Chris had done at Hudson Clearwater and the type of food they were chasing for The Heyward project was really exciting. We did a couple of tastings at my house, really informal, and a few weeks after that I had my own kitchen! There weren’t really any titles for anyone in the first few months, you know how openings are… but the Exec Chef position was made official in April.

      LAST LIFE-CHANGING, SWOON-WORTHY FOOD EXPERIENCE?

      I was lucky enough to eat at Betony recently. The meal was amazing. The food was balanced, well thought-out, and cooked perfectly. Chef Bryce Shuman executed the food in such a way that it was fresh and innovative, while not being too complicated. I recommend the pig’s head for two- for one!

      MOST IMPORTANT FLAVOR-BUILDING INGREDIENT OR COMBO?

      I would say the most important thing to remember when flavor building is to control your temperature. If I had to choose a specific ingredient I would say the onion. They are so versatile and can really enhance a dish. I use them in almost everything I make.

      WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A CHEF AND WHAT WAS THE GENESIS TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

      I’ve always cooked and as I grew up I realized that I didn’t just enjoy cooking for myself, but for other people as well. The first time I really got the opportunity to do so on a regular basis was when I began dating my (now) wife while we were spending a summer in Milan. After frequently visiting the markets full of fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, and breads, I got inspired and was able to find deeper meaning to the art of cooking. Over time I have become enthralled with the art of plating as well.

      ANY KITCHEN TRICK FOR HOME CHEFS THAT GUARANTEED TO PACK FLAVOR INTO THEIR DISHES?

      Honestly I would say the best home trick is a well-developed stock and fresh herbs. I say to my chefs at work all the time that the difference between professionals and home-cooks are successful, well-developed stocks and sauces.

      DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO COOKING AT HOME AND AT WORK?

      Lately, I would say that I definitely have a different approach. My food becomes more simple at home, mainly because I don’t have as much free time as I’ve had in the past. I feel like my creative tank is currently being used up much more at work than it ever has been before, so when I come home simplicity wins over all.

      SOMETHING YOU OFTEN CREATE FOR YOURSELF OR FRIENDS AT HOME?

      Being from New Mexico I love eating Mexican food and tacos are one of my favorite things on this planet. There are tons of delicious combinations possible, but if they have New Mexican green chile, even better. My wife makes delicious breakfast tacos for me on a regular basis as well.

      FIVE INGREDIENTS YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

      Pork, garlic, chiles, onions, and corn.

      LATE NIGHT INDULGENCE AFTER A NIGHT IN THE KITCHEN?

      I love a late night bagel sandwich (I call it the “double double double”- double egg, double sausage, double cheese, extra jalapenos) from my local spot in Brooklyn. It just happens to be one of the only places open at that time… But I even if it wasn’t, I would still crave it regularly.

      A CHILDHOOD OR COLLEGE DAY SNACK YOUR MILDLY EMBARRASSED YOU STILL LOVE?

      I’m not even embarrassed about it, but I really do love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a tall glass of cold whole milk. My wife makes it best- she knows just the right proportions of PB to jelly, which brands and flavors, what kind of bread, and how to cut it! It all makes a difference 😉  I mean it’s simple and classic, but it’s good.

      WHAT’S ALWAYS IN YOUR FRIDGE?

      Milk, taco ingredients, Sriracha, and a lot of fresh vegetables.

      THE FIVE LOCAL GO TO RESTAURANTS ARE CAFÉS YOU FREQUENT?

      We end up eating out for breakfast more often than dinner, because that’s when we actually get to see each other! Here in Williamsburg we love Isa, Five Leaves, Cafe Colette… A new one that I’ve recently started going to is Donna, which is absolutely delicious, and then last but not least one of my all-time favorite breakfasts is at Cafe Mogador.

      YOUR IDEAL MEAL IS… WITH…

      Simple food, done right is best. An easy grilled meal up on my roof with fresh local ingredients, a decent bottle of wine and my lovely wife.

      FOOD TRENDS YOU PARTAKE IN? ONE YOU WISH WOULD GO AWAY?

      I partake in using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. I even have a small garden on my rooftop that provides nice greens and herbs. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m not a fan of drenching things in truffle oil.

Grilled Brook Trout

Chef Derek Orrell

  • Ingredients

    • Trout

      • Scaled
      • Cleaned and pin boned
      • Filleted
      • Grill the trout for 2 mins and finish in the oven for 2 more mins. 
      • Finish with fresh lemon juice and sea salt

      White Eggplant and Spring greens

      • Clean thoroughly
      • Cut into 2 ½ inch wedges
      • Saute on medium high heat until golden brown on each side. (2-3 mins)
      • Wilt the greens with the eggplant just ever so slightly.
      • Finish with chopped parsley and chives.

      Romesco

      • 25g almonds, toasted
      • 25g hazelnuts, toasted
      • 55g toasted bread
      • 25g garlic, confit
      • 25g piquillo peppers
      • 110g roasted peppers
      • 10g calabrian chiles
      • 6g red wine
      • 15g sherry vinegar
      • 13g Veri Jus
      • 3g house blend of paprika
      • 100g extra virgin olive oil
      • 4g salt
      • 225g tomatoes, roasted
  • The Prep

      • Toss both the almonds and the hazelnuts in a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toast in a 325’ F oven for 8-10 mins.
      • Take the bread and cut off all the crust. Cut it in to 2 inch cubes (they don’t have to be perfect) and toss in a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toast the bread until crispy in a 325’F oven for 10-12 mins.
      • Clean the red peppers, removing all their seeds and stems. Make sure to take the entire rib out of the inside of the pepper (it is twice as bitter as the pepper).  Cut them into smaller chunks, toss them in olive oil and place the peppers on a sheet tray in one single layer, skin side up. Roast them off in a 325’F oven for 17-20 min.
      • Clean the tomatoes, remove their stems, and cut them into smaller chunks. Toss the tomatoes with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast off until soft and tender in a 325’ F oven for 17-20 mins.
      • Peel one head of garlic and put it in olive oil in a small saucepot on low heat until the garlic is just golden brown and soft.
      • Mix all ingredients together in a food processor, adding the olive oil last, streaming it in slowly.

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