Chef Craig Koketsu’s seasonally inspired restaurant Park Avenue Summer has been revamped for the warmer weather, and it is just the bright, airy space in which to enjoy a Sunday brunch with friends. The AvroKO-designed restaurant changes its decor quarterly to reflect the seasons, and along with it, the menu evolves to showcase the best current ingredients.
We chatted with Koketsu to learn more about the restaurant’s new summer menu, his daily routine, and snag his favorite brunch recipes.
Describe a typical day in your life: Morning walk in the park with Henry, my goldendoodle, followed by the gym. Office visit to catch up on emails and meet with partners. Go by the restaurants to meet with chefs and work on new dishes.
My lunch routine consists of: Depends on the day, sometimes it’s a liquid lunch from Juice Press and sometimes it’s my favorite burger from Park Avenue. Today, I’m eating pretzels and a peanut butter cup.
If I weren’t a chef, I would be: a musician.
The best part of what I do is: I love working with so many different people to create an unforgettable restaurant experience.
The best thing I’ve ever eaten: My mom’s beef stroganoff.
Where do you seek inspiration for the restaurant?
It could be anything from the seasons to a dish I enjoyed at another restaurant, or sometimes, inspiration comes from something as abstract as a painting. As creators, we are always tuned into details that inspire us.
Who inspires you in the restaurant world?
Jacques Pepin was my original inspiration to become a chef.
Favorite dish: In-N-Out burger, regular, not animal-style.
I’m 10 times more productive when: I turn off my phone.
Shrimp & Grits (serves 8)
1 quart heirloom, course-milled grits (we use Geechie Boy), soaked overnight in 4 quarts water
40 marinated black tiger shrimp (recipe follows)
1 pint fontina cheese1 pound butter
1 cup parmesan
2 cups fresh shelling peas, blanched
1 cup asparagus, pickled (recipe follows)
Pea tendrils, parsley, and/or chervil
For marinated shrimp:
40 black tiger shrimp, use 16-20 count size
8 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 cup jumbo asparagus, cut on bias
½ cup neutral vinegar, like rice wine or white wine
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
For asparagus: Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil, let cool to room temperature and pour over cut asparagus.
For shrimp: Blend paprika and garlic with olive oil in a blender, coat shrimp and rub in to marinate. Soak wood skewers in salted warm water for three minutes. Skewer marinated shrimp (if grilling).
For grits: Pour soaked grits in pot and heat until it simmers, stirring frequently, and reduce heat until barely simmering. Cook until hydrated and creamy, stirring very frequently, but with still a little bite—it may need more water. Add the butter and cheeses and season to taste with salt.
To finish: Cook shrimp on the grill or in a sauté pan until just done, they will cook very quickly. Spoon finished grits into serving vessel, top with blanched peas, pickled asparagus, shrimp and herbs.
Sweet Corn Griddlecakes With Grilled Peach Butter (serves 6-8)
2 cups fine ground heirloom grits
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
⅓ cup sugar in the raw
3 cups milk
5 teaspoons vanilla
¼ pound butter, room temperature
1 pint fresh corn
3 ripe yellow peaches
1 cup maple syrup
Cut and pit two peaches, rub with olive oil and grill until charred. Let cool then chop the peaches with a knife and mix with ½ the amount of room temperature butter.
Sweat out fresh corn in butter with a little salt.
Mix dry and wet ingredients separately. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir just to combine. It can be a little lumpy, just no big pockets of flour. Fold in cooked corn and let rest 10 minutes.
Cook in butter on a griddle or in a pan. Heat up maple syrup and reduce by a quarter. Emulsify a big spoonful of peach butter into the maple syrup, until it becomes thick and caramel like.
As you stack the pancakes, put a tablespoon of peach butter between each layer, top with emulsified maple sauce and the remaining peach, thinly sliced. Finish with picked basil.
See more recipes:
How to Make Brunch In a Single Sheet Pan
Weekend Brunch Plans: Little Frog's Croque Madame
Sea Scallops with Carrots, Romanesco and Citrus