Compliments to the Chef: Jeremy Bearman of Rouge Tomate
By Nan Lyons
Lights! Camera!! Cilantro!!!!!
What becomes a ga-zillion dollar restaurant with a nutritionally correct menu most? If it’s Rouge Tomate, then it has to be it’s executive chef, Jeremy Bearman.
A New Yorker most of his life, Chef Bearman took a gamble, quite literally, and spent some quality time at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, in Las Vegas. He was also the power behind the porterhouse at the super prestigious Lark Creek Steak, in San Francisco. Since 2008 he has been at the helm of the Rouge Tomate in his home town of New York. The star gazers at Michelin were properly appreciative and handed him one of their best, just a year after the restaurant opened.
Growing up in New York City, for Jeremy Bearman, meant being exposed to a society fueled by the newest of the new in food trends and restaurant choices. It was clear that at an early age he was honing his skills as the family gourmet. Jeremy soon became the driving force behind the menu selections at home. And so, it was no surprise when he began to dream of seeing his own recipes up in lights, if not on Broadway than in his mother’s kitchen. From there it was on to act two at the Cornel School of Hotel and Hospitality Management. By the time he graduated Jeremy said, “the controlled chaos” of a restaurant kitchen was the milieu that made his heart beat faster, not to mention his wisk.
Being the chef at the Rouge Tomate means never having to say “pass the cream”. The restaurant was founded on the principle of nutritionally sound and balanced food combinations. And those combinations are usually composed without the benefit of butter or cream. Rouge Tomate’s culinary mantra is made up of three initials: S.P.E. they may look as if they stand for some new kind of digital television, but in reality S stands for Sourcing, P stands for Preparing, and E stands for Enhancing. Put them all together and they spell healthy with a capitol H. As I walked through the stunningly sleek restaurant to meet the chef I suddenly felt an insatiable craving for a double chocolate malted.
The first thing I asked Chef Bearman was not if they served chocolate malteds, because even I knew what the answer would be, but rather if his own eating habits had changed since he became an S.E.Per. It seemed as if it would be a challenge since he was classically trained and even more dangerous to his principles, he was married to a pastry chef. Did the absence of culinary malice make for an inhibiting menu or perhaps a wistful recollection of asparagus with hollandaise? He looked at me with great conviction and told me “I have so much more energy and I feel so much better these days. I never have a heavy, full, reaction after a meal. Even when I eat out I try to order lighter choices.” He assured me that he’d made a complete change in both his professional and personal lives. Mercifully my craving for a malted was beginning to subside.
When we spoke of his time away from the “controlled chaos” of his environmentally and seasonally driven habitat, Chef Bearman’s face lit up. His spare moments were spent working on his very favorite, non-edible pleasure — his boat. For him it was a case of feeding the soul without gastronomic intervention. And his thoughts about life after the Rouge Tomate were not really a change of food philosophy but rather a change in the formality of the up-scale restaurant scene. Chef Bearman said that if he were to go on to a new theme, it would probably be a buffet-style setting. Not like the ones on every street corner in New York, but an extravagant display of Farm Table specialties in an elegant atmosphere. He was very specific: “ nutritionally balanced but sophisticated, cutting edge combinations, chosen by the diner and then brought to the table by a knowledgeable wait staff.”
Much as I tried to find the chink in Chef Bearman’s commitment to the very best of his culinary credo, he was obviously armed with his own convictions. Just before I left I used my last and most formidable “weapon.” I asked him, “when no one is looking, what’s your favorite guilty indulgence”?
Without missing a beat he shot back “Pizza”
As if by magic my craving for a malted returned, stronger than ever.
Rouge Tomate 10 East 60th Street, New York, NY
Nan Lyons is the co-author of “Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe” and the author of “Gluttony” and “Around the World in 80 Meals.” She lives in Manhattan.