In Soho, Lure Fishbar chef Preston Clark creates his own legacy

Preston Clark’s Crab and Lobster Ravioli is no ordinary ravioli. He throws all-purpose flour, egg whites, yolks, olive oil and salt into a giant mixer, then rolls out the pasta, alternating between electric and hand-cranked rollers depending on the crowd at the restaurant. Then he stuffs each pasty pocket with a mixture of blue crab, lobster, various herbs, a little mascarpone and a little ricotta cheese.

Once he’s formed the ravioli, he turns to uni cream sauce – a decadent combination of uni, heavy cream, butter and lemon juice – and heats it in a smooth pan of oil. olive oil covered with garlic, chili flakes and parsley. As the sauce bubbles, he pours in the pasta and the extra crabmeat. Clark finishes the plate with lobster, toasted breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of fresh cayenne pepper, parsley and lemon juice.

Pasta — a testament to Clark’s culinary career influenced by various neighborhoods and cultures — is a signature dish at Lure Fishbar in Soho, where seafood is the mainstay of the menu. “You have the ocean on your plate,” he says. “It’s just an umami flavor bomb in your mouth.”

Clark is the executive chef and culinary director of the nearly 20-year-old restaurant, which constantly draws a lively crowd, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and LeBron James. But Clark, who runs the restaurant, is remarkable in his own right: in 2019, the New York Times named him one of 16 black chefs who changed food in America. He is also the son of legendary New York chef Patrick Clark, the nation’s first black chef to win a James Beard Award. Although father and son share the same last name, Preston is establishing his own legacy in New York as the culinary force behind Lure’s longtime success. And as a black chef cooking a variety of restaurant dishes, Clark refuses to be locked into an industry that often only enables success for black people when it’s tied to Southern or soul food.

Before becoming executive chef at Lure, Clark worked at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Cafe Mezé in Hartsdale, New York and, at the age of 24, at Jean-Georges, the mainstay of French gastronomy.

Having Patrick Clark as a father might scare a child away from anything to do with the culinary arts, given the chef’s resounding impact on the industry, but Preston did the opposite: he ran straight into the fire. As a teenager, he started his first kitchen job at the Central Park icon Tavern on the Green, where his father ran the kitchen. Both of Clark’s parents were graduates of cooking school, and her work was fueled by memories of home-cooked dinners that included whole fish, fried chicken, lamb chops and pasta.

He also carried souvenirs from Sunday dinners. Fried chicken with mac and cheese meant it was his dad’s day off and soul food could take precedence. As the eldest of five children, Clark became a natural caretaker, watching over his four younger siblings and helping his mother Lynette cook for them. The nurturing role he took on in his family’s kitchen “helped me lay the groundwork for my own path and my own career,” Clark says.

Early on, the chef turned to the sensory aspects of the tavern on green work, closely studying whether a steak needed more salt or a vegetable was unseasoned. A Caesar salad, for example, wasn’t just a Caesar salad for Clark. A sprinkle of parmesan crisps could completely change the salad, showing the importance of texture. (At Lure, Clark has a kale riff on the Caesar salad he made as a teenager.)

While his father ran the kitchen, Clark says he went through the same rigorous late 20th-century training that many of his peers went through. “I had as much grief as the next guy in the kitchen,” Clark says.

As Clark began to make his way, tragedy struck: his father died of a rare blood disease in 1998, when Clark was 16. He had to find his future – as a leader and as a black man – on his own. “There was this mental angst, for sure,” Clark says. “But it didn’t discourage me, and it didn’t discourage my conduct.”

Clark spent his summers in high school learning from chefs and line cooks to shape America’s modern culinary scene. His journey took him to kitchens across the country, including Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Cafe Mezé in Hartsdale, New York, and, at the age of 24, Jean-Georges, a devotee of French gastronomy, where he met longtime colleague and friend James Kent, the chef and original owner of posh downtown Manhattan hits Crown Shy and Saga.

“You have a lot of amazing dining experiences, but not everyone makes you feel welcomed and loved,” Kent says. “But you get that experience with Preston.”

As his culinary career progressed, Clark incorporated flavors from East and Southeast Asia, and he began to create his own culinary narrative, shaped by the influences Clark had around him. . During his seven years at Jean-Georges, Clark went from line cook to sous chef. After stints at other notable restaurants in New York and California, Clark was hired as executive chef of Soho’s seafood hotspot, Lure.

Two chefs stand behind a crude mirrored bar, setting a dish and looking for garnishes.

Clark brings a lot of energy to Lure’s kitchen, says owner John McDonald. “He constantly yells every night, ‘It’s Friday night in New York! “”

According to his boss, Lure owner John McDonald, Clark does not channel his father’s food, which was closer to traditional American cuisine, such as roast rack of lamb, veal chop and roast beef. skillet with blue cheese ravioli. He jumped headfirst into Lure’s seafood menu – from sushi to uni-covered pasta. He does, however, channel his father’s energy and commitment to eating well.

“He constantly yells every night, ‘It’s Friday night in New York! ‘” McDonald said. It’s a joke, he explains, which basically means it’s time to “put on a show”.

McDonald says the vibrant energy many people associate with a Friday in New York — the music selection, the loud conversations, the unforgettable food and drink — is an atmosphere Clark tries to create on every shift. He’s also quick to jump on new ideas: The owner remembers having many casual conversations about potential dishes with Clark and other cooks at Lure. Clark often takes these conversations to heart – and within 24 hours he will have the recipe ready, tested and ready to serve.

“He embodies this idea of ​​a collaborative, innovative chef,” McDonald says.

Upon entering Lure Fishbar, the respect for seaside cuisine is evident; woodwork, lifebuoys and anchors capture the surroundings of the yacht. A generously breaded tempura shrimp is light and crisp; the lobster tempura roll is constructed with painstaking detail; a sea urchin bucatini offers brackish richness.

The oysters, seafood pasta, and extensive sushi menu are part of why Clark was drawn to Lure, as the restaurant gave him the opportunity to be himself. “I think it’s extremely important to be able to be creative and to be an artist, and to have a space for that in this industry,” Clark says.

A white bowl filled with yellow pasta, red and green toppings and plain orange on top.

Brackish and rich sea urchin bucatini in Lure.

For Clark, his current position demonstrates the equitable culinary space that his father tried to create for chefs like him, and that he is working to continue. Clark believes her existence in the culinary scene is proof that black chefs can do whatever they want.

“I’m proud to be a guy who can really support what he does,” Clark says. “I hope people understand and believe this when they have eaten at Lure.”

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