Interviews

She Eats: The Queens of King in NYC

By Jane Larkworthy
Founders of King Restaurant in NYC

Courtesy of King restaurant

 

In our series “She Eats,” we profile (literal) tastemakers — experts in the culinary space. They divulge not only their gastronomic philosophies and insight into their own meals, but their top skincare and beauty secrets.

In a city like New York, where new restaurants seem to crop up every night, success is far from guaranteed. To make it there, every element — from its ambience and location to its menu — needs to be perfectly in place. Thanks to chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt and partner Annie Shi, King has all of that in spades, earning them commendations that include featuring de Boer and Shadbolt on Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” cover.

De Boer and Shadbolt met working the line at the storied River Café in London. The two Brits also met Annie Shi, an American ex-pat, in the financial business. The three became friends there, before moving to New York and deciding to open a restaurant.

Dining at King is never a “scene.” Sure, a bold-faced name (they’d never divulge…) might be seated at the next table, but its laid-back atmosphere is part of the magic. You sit down to a table devoid of utensils, because the encourage eating their signature panisse with your fingers — as you most likely would do at home. The menu, which changes daily, is a mix-up of Italian and French, and it favors sublime flavors and textures over spectacular looks. But its owners happen to have that department covered. Shadbolt, DeBoer and partner Shi (who handles the front of house and wine list) could easily grace the cover of Glamour magazine, with their gorgeous looks and youthful spirit.

The best part is they’re as affable and hardworking as they are wildly talented. Watch them in action, and you’ll likely want to become their friends as much as you’ll want to order everything on the menu. We managed to stop each of them for a quick second to find out how they balance their crazy lives while still eating wisely and caring for their skin.

 

Spotlyte: How would you describe your overall diet intake?

Clare De Boer: I eat anything and everything and mainly at King. [I’m] rarely spotted without food in my mouth — they say tasting is believing!  

Jess Shadbolt: Kitchen life means a bit of anything and everything — at any time! Working shifts makes it difficult to eat routinely —  breakfast happens at lunch, lunch happens at dinner, and dinner tends to be tasting throughout service on the line. My overall intake is vegetable based — I love snacking on the raw tomatoes that have just arrived in the kitchen, and we tend to have a lot of beans and greens cooked so they are often my go-to, finished with some lemon juice and olive oil.  

Annie Shi: Anything and everything. Working in a restaurant means that you rarely eat at normal times. I typically am not hungry when I wake up. I may bring a KIND® bar with me, but most likely I’ll end up snacking on some grilled carta [di musica] with whatever is being served that lunch. Hopefully, anchovy butter! And then my one full meal is at family meal, which is usually something healthy and delicious and inspired by that evening’s menu that the kitchen has put together. Sometimes, if service has been particularly crazy, I’ll be starving after work and will share a midnight snack with my boyfriend. This usually involves either charcuterie and cheeses, or my mother’s frozen dumplings.

Spotlyte: Any dietary issues or struggles with certain foods?

AS: I think I probably should eat less dairy, but I’m also of the mindset that I can overcome my slight intolerance by doubling down.

CD: Not really. You can't go wrong with lots of olive oil and good salt, and a slice of cake to lift the spirits.

JS: Though I love it, I don’t tend to eat a lot of red meat and find it difficult to digest — I avoid it until I can no more!

Spotlyte: What is your philosophy regarding food and eating?

AS: I eat whenever I’m hungry and whatever I like, only because my schedule doesn’t usually allow for lots of luxurious meals. But I also believe in eating what makes you happy. Eating and happiness are synonymous for me.  

JS: Food and eating has always been at the heart of my happiest moments. Whether it be cooking for family at home, sharing dinner with friends or making bread with my grandmother, my favorite parts of life are based around a table or behind a stove, so I'm fortunate that I see food and eating as a moment of joy. There is something so satisfying about making something and then sharing it with others. And if you have made it yourself, you know what has gone into it, so you have full understanding of its provenance.   

CD: Cook food that you fancy with frivolous abandon, and it will taste great and be good for you.

Spotlyte: Did you grow up in a gastronomic household?

CD: My family life revolved around the dinner table, and I evolved into a cook to be the provider of the joy that this lifestyle gave to me.

AS: I grew up in a very gastronomic household. My mother made dinner every night and continues to do so. We always ate dinner together as a family, and it was always home-cooked Chinese food — from many different regions, but focused mostly on cuisines from Zhejiang and Dong Bei, which are where my parents are from.

JS: My mother is a wonderful cook, and inspired me and all my siblings to spend time in the kitchen. Weekends were spent making jam, cakes and breads, and dinner each night was always a meal we looked forward to sharing around the table, often having played a part in making it. Mum’s a maverick in the kitchen. She never follows a recipe; she really taught me to be intuitive, to be instinctive and to always cook with a glass of wine (after 7 p.m., of course)!

Spotlyte: Is it possible to get a sample day of what you eat?

CD: Today, I was in the kitchen from 8 o'clock on. I had a double espresso when I got in, then a grilled whole mackerel at 10 a.m. because I was hungry. Soon after, I was making pesto and dipping shards of pagnotta into that. Pesto and crunchy bread — delight! We were then experimenting with a few cakes, so I had a sliver of each of them. I cooked lasagnette with pesto during lunch service, so I had some of each dish I sent out — that adds up to perhaps more than a taste! I ate a lot of peaches marinated in basil, black pepper and olive oil, which was also on my section for lunch. I ate some raw tian (aubergine [eggplant], tomato and zucchini) while we were prepping. I left the restaurant at 4 p.m., had some kombucha at home, and am gearing up for dinner at Little Sheep — hot pot [restaurant] on the Bowery — before going for drinks.

JS: Up and out of the apartment without even having a moment to boil the kettle! So I head straight to Jack's Stir Brew Coffee for a coffee — large cold brew, no milk — before nipping into the deli to pick up two large bottles of water. I drink a lot of water throughout the day! My cold-brew ticks me over while I sit and write the menu at King (which usually takes me an hour) before I head into the kitchen.

Now that we are open for lunch, mornings can be a scramble getting into service. But energy is high, the coffee has kicked in, and normally Prince is blaring from the kitchen. Just before service, I tend to have a snack. At the moment, it’s carta di musica with some marinated tomatoes, wild oregano, and bottarga di muggine. Tasting throughout service means that I tend to skip family meal at 4:30 p.m. I'll grab a double espresso before heading into evening service. Kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m. and once we've cleaned down, I tend to share a margarita on the terrace with our chefs, and chat about the adventures of service — and what we should cook the next morning.  

Spotlyte: Do you believe what you eat affects how you look and feel?

JS: I think eating well, and understanding and appreciating good food leads you to have a healthier diet. Cooking and eating seasonally, understanding sourcing — it makes you make healthier choices, which ultimately makes you feel and look better.

AS: I do believe that. I always feel terrible when I’m on an extended vacation and all I’ve eaten for five days is burgers, fries and margaritas. I feel best when I’m eating a lot of vegetables and rice, and eating small amounts often.

CD: Too much of anything doesn't feel great, but eating is my job and I adore it. I tend to feel better when I don't eat too much after 10 p.m., though.

Spotlyte: What's the most popular dish at King? Why do you suppose that is? Meaning, aside from taste?

CD: We have a daily-changing menu and hope that no one gets too attached to an item. 

AS: Because the menu changes daily, there aren’t many signature dishes as such. But our wild red snapper is insanely popular. I think it’s because it’s incredibly fresh and always so delicious, no matter how the kitchen prepares it.

JS: One of the dishes that has remained on the menu since day one is the panisse and the crowd go wild for it. It’s a great nibble to start the meal with, and perhaps its popularity is because it has been with us from the beginning. Either way, we love it too, so it's here to stay!

Spotlyte: When you're not eating at King, where do you love eating lately?

CD: At my new home upstate, or anywhere in Flushing / Chinatown. 

AS: Pinch Chinese for dumplings, Shuko, Blue Ribbon Brasserie. 

JS: I've just stumbled across a little gem around the corner from my apartment — Cervo's — great Portuguese inspired food and lovely wines. Also Lam Zhou, which is now on Bowery.

Spotlyte: Shifting gears, tell us a bit about your skincare routine and habits.

AS: I am obsessed with skincare. I have a few brands that I always come back to, but I love discovering new ones. Right now, I’m using the new formula of Banila Co. Clean It Zero, which is a solid oil cleanser. And then I cleanse a second time with Ren’s sensitive, anti-pollutant Evercalm™ Gentle Cleansing Milk, which I adore because it is so gentle, moisturizing and smells amazing. Then I’ll use a toner. At night, I’ll sometimes use the accompanying Ren [Evercalm™ Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask], followed by a few essences. I rotate between three or four. After that, I like to use a few different serums — either The Ordinary Buffet with copper peptide, Drunk Elephant™ C-Firma™ during the day, or Paula’s Choice Niacinamide Booster. Then I follow with an acid of some kind — The Ordinary Azelaic Acid for my red spots or Paula’s Choice AHA [or] BHA exfoliant. Finally, I’ll finish with The Ordinary Marula Oil and a light moisturizer and Biore™ Watery Essence Sunscreen.

CD: My skincare routine is minimal — Cetaphil [face] wash at night. I moisturize with this great new thing I've found — Tammy Fender — I have her eye and face cream. I use EltaMD®  SPF 46 every day.

AS: It's embarrassing how little time (and money) I spend on my skin care routine! I have very dry skin and need to moisturize my face about three times a day. I use the classic Nivea Creme (in the blue pot!) and keep one at home, one in my handbag and one in the restaurant. In a bid to start taking a little more care, I just bought an eye cream from NARS. It's extremely rich and nourishing, so hopefully it will work some miracles on my dark circles under my eyes.

Spotlyte: What, if any, skincare advice did your mom impart to you that you've lived by?

CD: Sunscreen!

JS: Drink lots of water!

AS: Always always wash your face! I got really bad at washing off my makeup when the restaurant first opened — I was always just so tired when I got home. That’s why I invested in the Ren cleanser. Now it’s something I really look forward to doing and I always make sure I do it before I have a snack!

Spotlyte: We'd love to get a recipe of what you're really into making at home.

CD: At home, my cooking requires little work / ingredients, and is never anything I can't do with a glass of rosé in one hand. I like roasting chickens and serving them with big green salads. I've been into making galettes with spelt crusts and berries from the garden (peak season this week!).  

Below, De Boer outlines how you can make one of those tasty galettes yourself.

Fresh Berry Galette With Spelt Crust 

For the dough

  • 200g spelt flour
  • 150g regular flour or 00
  • Pinch salt
  • 225g cold butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 egg yolks

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, sugar, and add salt and cold butter.
  2. Rub in the butter until sandy.
  3. Add egg yolks and bring dough together, chill.
  4. Roll out into galette.

For the filling:

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Loads of berries (blueberries are perfect)

Directions:

Beat all of this together for a frangipane.

  1. Top crust with filling, and then handfuls of berries tossed in sugar.
  2. Fold crust edges up, egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Bake until cooked (350° for around an hour). Serve.



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