Mother always knows best. That was certainly true in Daniel Eddy’s case when he was figuring out what to do in life. After he spent a couple unfulfilling years in university, Eddy’s mother suggested "out of the blue" that he apply to culinary school, even though he'd never considered food and beverage as a possible career. Eddy, now 33, decided to test the waters by apprenticing at a nearby restaurant. Following one opportunity to the next, he never left the kitchen.
Eddy’s first big gig came in 2004, working at restaurateur Michael Psilakis’ Greek restaurant Onera in New York City. In 2009 he traveled to Paris for three years and cooked under Daniel Rose at acclaimed eatery Spring before returning to the Big Apple in 2013. He met Branden McRill and Patrick Cappiello, owners of Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Pearl & Ash, and soon they offered him the opportunity to lead the kitchen at their latest project, Manhattan's Rebelle. Since opening in spring 2015, Rebelle has been a magnet for Francophiles in both the food and wine departments. Patrick Cappiello’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine list spans nearly 2,000 selections, and Eddy’s precise, inventive cooking, inspired by classic French dishes, has proved to be quite versatile for successful pairings. Wine Spectator tasting coordinator Gillian Sciaretta chatted with Eddy to learn more about his life in food and adventures in wine.
Wine Spectator: When did wine become an important part in your culinary career?
Daniel Eddy: Wine was an immediate interest. My grandfather served a bit of time in France during World War II, and one of things he brought back was his affinity for wine. So there was always wine at the dinner table.
But it wasn’t really until I moved to Paris that wine became a much more integral part of the food. I had maybe five beers the entire time I was living in Paris, and the rest of it was just wine. There was wine throughout the day. And after work service, just opening up bottles and discovering things, talking about food and wine in tandem. It all just continued to grow.
WS: What is your general approach to matching food and wine?
DE: You can’t change the wine. I think that’s one of the most important things to understand: to accept that the wine is going to be what it is. Our work as chefs or cooks is to work with the flavors and to make the food match with the wine as best as possible.
You have to create a dish that doesn’t compete, that doesn’t one-up the wine. You should create a whole experience where there is evolution in a dish that is similar to the evolution that occurs in the wine. Just think about how much change a bottle of wine can go through [from] the moment that it is first opened to the last glass that is poured out. And then you sort of think of a dish in that same way, and think, “OK, what’s the first note to hit on that first bite? What does it lead to? And how will this work in a harmonious fashion with the wines being served alongside it?”
WS: What important questions do you need to ask the sommelier team about a wine in order to make a successful pairing?
DE: The wine list we have here is enormous, so what I want to do is create food that I know falls in the lines of certain wines and can work across the board. Then, if there is time to make slight changes in order to make a dish work with one specific bottle, that’s when we taste and discuss, and it becomes a conversation [with the sommelier].
[For example,] I just started running a dish on the tasting menu that’s a couple different types of lamb. It’s like lamb belly, lamb loin and lamb tenderloin. The tenderloin is smoked and done with fresh fennel puree and smoked olives. It’s a dish that sings of Syrah. But to have it match with something as classic as [the Rhône's Pierre] Gonon to something a little more eccentric like [Syrah from Argentina's] Luca, all you have to change sometimes is the acidity. Whether you’re going with more floral, be it orange, or something you want a little sharper, be it lemon, it’s those little touches that can affect the pairing the dish has with the wine.
WS: Do you have a particularly memorable recent food and wine pairing?
DE: That’s a tough question! Every day. Recently, a customer brought in a Colin-Morey wine. I had a torchon of foie gras, with currant jelly, huckleberries and pickled chanterelles on a green apple. There were a lot of textural components. It played so well in conjunction with the white Burgundy, which had some age on it. The flavors sort of mimicked the bit of the fat, but the acidity was still bright enough to be in line with the Granny Smith apple. The tartness, bitterness and sweetness of it all worked surprisingly well. And it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t make that dish with the thought that someone was going to bring in this bottle. It just sort of happened, and it was in that moment where we discovered that it worked really well.
WS: Are you noticing any important trends in our evolving culture of restaurants, food and wine?
DE: I have seen a lot more back-of-the-house discussion [among] cooks and how their interest in wine is much more than what it was a decade ago, at least in New York City. I definitely think that’s something that’s growing, which is great to see because it really does help hone a cook’s palate. They realize they have to use their nose just as much as they use their taste buds.