Behind the Hat: An Interview with Chef Travis McGinty of Ten Hope

Ten Hope served its menu of Mediterranean-inspired, seasonally influenced cuisine and bottomless brunch in its inviting, atmospheric dining room and greenery-soaked, dog-friendly outdoor patio (before 2020 it was cool necessary) since 2019 at 10 Hope St.

The restaurant was opened for the first time with Excellent chef Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle at the helm when Travis McGinty stepped in at the request of his chef mentor, Garrett McMahon. From there, McGinty worked alongside Dieterle to develop the dishes Ten Hope became known for, earning him the appointment of Executive Sous Chef six months later.

We chatted with McGinty to shed some light on Ten Hope’s signature dishes like brick chicken, hot flatbread with olive oil Za’atar (paired with a range of dips like hummus and feta whipped) and Kofte Lamb Burger to Life and Beyond.

Green pointers: What brought you to Ten Hope?

McGinty: I had first worked at Celestine in DUMBO and my chef mentor was chef Garrett McMahon. I went back to French cuisine and then he reminded me that he needed someone to fill a Sous Chef position doing Mediterranean cuisine but with, instead of a French twist that we have made in Celestine, more of an American touch. I discovered that the chief in charge [at Ten Hope] was chef Harold Dieterle, and then I found out he was also my mentor’s mentor – so everything is in circles in the chef industry. They wanted to like to do good high end meals, but in a casual environment and I was totally in for it.

I met Chef Harold, we hit it off, we talked about all the ins and outs, and then at that point we started doing our thing, coming up with brand new stuff, trying to do traditional Mediterranean food, but also mixing in some Italian for pasta, doing little riffs with the Americanization of Israeli food, Palestinian food from Yemen, all sorts of things. We were able to come up with some very unique ideas and challenge ourselves as chefs.

Green pointers: Have you always been drawn to restaurants in Brooklyn? Is there something in particular about the field that also attracted you to the position?

McGinty: I love Brooklyn, I’m originally from southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. So it’s a very different atmosphere, but I like its eclecticism. It’s a bit modern, but it still has the brownstone and old school, New York feel to it. It touches everything my heart wants when I wanted to move here to New York. I’ve done a lot of cooking at my house, I’ve done almost all the cooking you could do, but that was my mission once I decided to really jump into the world of chefs so I wouldn’t focus too much on one lane.

Green pointers: What inspires the menu of Ten Hope?

McGinty: I tasted Mediterranean cuisine for the first time at Célestine and discovered that it had all the same flavors as we do in the South; everything has to have flavor, it has to be bold, it has to be stylish. I need these spices in my life, honestly. Coming from the South, I can’t make bland dishes, it has to be stylish.

When it comes to Ten Hope, I tried to take all that culture of knowledge that I had in each restaurant and implement it in our kitchen. So we’ll have everything from chicken cooked under a brick, which is a bit American-style, and then we’ll have the salmon with a very French-style seared crispy skin. We do shakshuka harissa — which is very Mediterranean — for brunch. We even have the mezze of dips, which is also very traditional. So I try to create every little element of the mood when it comes to the menu, while still allowing the possibility of trying different things so that they are not all the same.

Green pointers: What do you think is your cooking philosophy?

McGinty: It would probably sound cliché because I’m sure a lot of chefs say it, but you have to cook with care and love. I think if you don’t love what you’re doing and if you don’t take the time and care to use precision with what you’re doing with food then you’re not going to have a quality product and it will come to the guests on the table. So everything we do, we cross-check, we check everything before it comes out.

We just try to create a really pleasant environment and atmosphere for everyone, not just for the workers, but also for the guests who come in, everyone should feel welcome. We try to touch every point that would make guests feel welcome.

Green pointers: Is there anything coming to Ten Hope that you’re particularly excited about?

McGinty: We do seasonal menu changes, I normally change the menu every three to four months or so. So we have a spring menu, a summer menu, a fall menu, and a winter, and it really follows the seasonal changes in the produce we have locally. I really try to follow what the local farmers are doing, what’s happening with the development of the ocean; there’s a bit of a shortage of fish, so I’m trying to figure out how to go with local farmers to raise fish, but also keep track of what’s happening seasonally.

Green pointers: What are your favorite places to eat in the neighborhood?

McGinty: I just went to Bonnie’s, everything was spectacular. I really ordered almost the whole menu, me and my fiancée were looking at it, we were like, “I love everything about this place.” If you want more low key, Starlight Tavern was another one I went to. Their nachos were fantastic, they were so explosive. They have a really nice rendition of their Brussels sprouts, which is close to what I’m doing here. There’s Gertie’s my other sous chef Celestine is actually the executive chef of Gertie’s down the street. So I’ll drop by and say hello sometimes. I’m also always trying to discover more things in the neighborhood, to be honest.

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