NYC is the undisputed capital of fine dining, and when it comes to steakhouses, there are many excellent choices to pick from. However, for one of the most enjoyable (and tasty) steak dining experiences, we strongly recommend Ben & Jack’s on 5th Avenue. The secret behind the success of this particular steakhouse is the tireless Executive Chef, Admir Alibasic, who expertly oversees every facet of this upscale eatery’s operations. Chef Admir holds a degree in Food Science, and he uses his technical knowledge and genuine love for people to make this restaurant a must-visit location. He also meticulously dry-ages his meat on site, and this is yet another reason why Ben & Jack’s leaves its competition in the dust. Read our interview with Chef Admir below:
“I grew up in the restaurant industry and worked almost every position and the best thing you can learn is to keep calm…”
Tell us briefly about Ben & Jack’s and how it started. What makes it different than other steakhouses in NYC?
Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse started with 4 partners and the pursuit of the American dream. Harry, Russ, Ben, and Jack each had over 10 years of experience in the steakhouse business prior to opening Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse and they decided to implement their experience in their own business. With their combined knowledge, Ben & Jack’s engraved its presence in NYC as one of the best steakhouses. What makes Ben & Jack’s different is the attention to detail from the customer experience to the quality of our ingredients. We are a family business so we treat the customers as if they are part of the family.
What type of ambiance are you aiming to create at your restaurant/s?
The ambiance we create is very welcoming and inviting. Gone are the days of the stodgy steakhouses that are cold and masculine. We have added banquets, lounge type seating and luxury outdoor furniture to our new restaurant opening this summer.
In your view, what attributes should a great host exude?
A great host should be very organized and great with time management. If you’re hosting a party you want to make sure hot food stays hot and cold food stay cool. When hosting parties, chafers are a must have to keep food hot and gives you time to tend to different items. Also, you can’t be a great host without the booze!
When did you realize that food/food science/cooking was your passion?
I got into the science field after losing 120lbs in 7 months. I originally was heading into the business field until I became health conscious. When I lost the weight, I was intrigued by food at a molecular level and how it affects the body. With my new mindset, I switched majors and the rest is history.
Cooking is second nature to me and even as a kid, I would always ask my mom for recipes of her dishes. I realized my passion to cook was when I saw Morimoto on the original Iron Chef for the first time. I was memorized on the way he would take ingredients and turn them into works of art.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since opening Ben & Jack’s about running a successful restaurant?
I grew up in the restaurant industry and worked almost every position and the best thing you can learn is to keep calm. Just like they say, if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen! You want to create a work environment where employees aren’t miserable or stressed out.
You do everything at your restaurant – from front of house to the kitchen, to food orders, and everything in-between. What’s your secret to juggling all these duties?
Juggling many things can get overwhelming but the key is to finish one task before moving on to the next. The only time I’ll drop what I’m doing is when meat and other ingredients arrive. Every primal cut of beef must meet our standards and if it doesn’t, I will sometimes send the whole order back. Quality control is very important in the restaurant industry and you want to make sure you’re always getting the best of the best. Besides everything I mentioned, I do work 14 hour shifts so I’m able to get everything done.
Where do you source your meat and why is it so important for you to age your steak in-house?
Being that this is a steakhouse, the quality of beef has to be top notch and the vendors you use make a difference. Some vendors will deliver short loins or strips that have 5-10lbs of excess fat, which then becomes a waste of money on our end. Or the companies will send smaller shells that will require you to use more meat and in the end, increase your cost. Most importantly, you want to make sure the USDA Prime stamp is on every shell. This makes a huge difference because USDA Prime has the highest grade of marbling and optimal for dry-aging. I enjoy working with Pat LaFrieda because they’re always on point with their orders. Their meat is exactly what I look for, large shells that are high marbling and USDA Prime.
What is the most special aspect of your aging process that makes your meat so good?
When it comes to dry-aging, you can’t cut corners and consistency is key to a perfectly dry-aged steak. In regards to cutting corners, it should be a sin to dry-age USDA choice instead of USDA prime beef. Yes, you will save on cost, but the flavor is completely different, plus you don’t want to fool the customers!!! We follow a formal procedure that I have implemented to consistently receive the best dry-aged beef. At our 5th Avenue location, we have two large walk-in boxes that helps circulate the meat. One of the aging boxes is only to be opened for quality control and on the third week of aging, we cycle the meat into our other aging box to finish the product.
What one thing do people think makes a good steak that is total misconception?
One misconception on cooking a good steak is the “flip it ONLY once” rule. Those who tend to flip multiple times get bashed or yelled at by those one-time flippers. The one time flip is the idea of not playing with your meat. Let the steak get a crust on one side then flip on the other side to finish. Sure, that idea works with very thin cuts of beef but when you’re cooking with a thicker cut, getting a crust and flipping once will not lead to even cooking. Once the meat is flipped, the surface that doesn’t touch the heat continues to cool whereas flipping every 30 seconds, provides continued heat with very little cooling when cooking.
Another misconception is cooking steak in butter! First of all, to cook a steak on a pan it has to be scorching hot. Butter has a low smoke point so adding it to a hot pan will only give your steak a burnt sour taste. Instead, save the butter for last and baste the steak with butter, herbs and garlic.
If you could eavesdrop on a conversation by a group of people describing their experience at your restaurant, what would you above all want to hear them say?
That they enjoyed the food, atmosphere and stellar service, all of which we pride ourselves on and of course, that they will be back for more!
Check out Ben & Jack’s steahouse at: 255 5th Ave
Visit their website here
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