The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2014

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56  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2014 CHEFS: ONE-ON-ONE WITH MERRILL SHINDLER M erlin Verrier sounds like a character out of Harry Potter. But the magic he performs is in the kitchen of Primary Food + Drink in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he's the right hand of Chicago chef Graham Elliot. While Elliot trades quips with Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich on MasterChef, Verrier meets the needs of the rich and the richer-than-rich in Greenwich with fried duck confit ravioli, a deconstructed Caesar, and cheddar risotto with smoked bacon. And it all began with an idyllic childhood on California's Central Coast. Merrill Shindler: Was it difficult growing up named Merlin? Merlin Verrier: Not really. About the worst thing they called me was The Wizard. The name comes from a bird of prey. My dad was a falconer, so birds meant a lot to him. What's your earliest food memory? Going duck hunting near Santa Cruz with my family. I was sur- rounded by garlic, artichokes and Dungeness crab we'd buy for $2 a pound. And going to the farmers markets—which were filled with real farmers. Did you have a favorite food? My mother was born in Indonesia. There were always two or three pots of crazy hot food cooking. I love peanut sauce, satay, gado gado. Why did you move from California to Colorado? I tried to do the school thing. But school is not for chefs. I like the mountains. I love snowboarding. You made another big leap—from Colorado, where you worked with Jennifer Jasinski and Richard Sandoval, to Chicago with Graham Elliot. I went from a small pond to a pretty damn big one. Graham's lived all over the world. He has an affinity for music and art. His father was an antiques dealer. We bonded right away. Greenwich is one of the most affluent communities in America. What's the clientele like? I like to say they're special. They're very diet conscious. And speaking of special—you've got a one-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter . . . My daughter comes to the restaurant every day after school. She works with me or the cooks or the pastry chef. She jumps in and helps out with the gnocchi. She loves the beet lollipops with cream cheese and black sea salt frosting. And do you have a guilty pleasure? A Double-Double from In-N-Out in California—nothing better. Merlin Verrier PRIMARY FOOD + DRINK IN GREENWICH, CT Merlin Verrier in the kitchen. PHOTOS: ADAM MACCHIA TP0514_034-71.indd 56 4/25/14 2:19 PM

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