Marking one of the rites of passage of every aspiring chef, Abacus executive chef Christopher Patrick will make his debut at the James Beard House on May 11, cooking a meal that is inspired by Texas game.
The Beard House is the culinary showplace in New York where up-and-coming chefs are invited to come and strut their stuff. Abacus has been at the Beard House in the past, when chef and founder Kent Rathbun cooked there in 2005. But this will be Patrick's first visit. It's an affirmation of his role at Abacus, as well as an opportunity to spotlight local foods and cuisine.
"Texas has a lot to offer," Patrick says. "We have our signature products: peaches, tomatoes, melons, beets, hardy greens, all in their season. And when the season is over, you learn how to be creative and pickle things for use later in the summer."
Patrick took the helm at Abacus following Rathbun's departure in 2016, but he's been in the kitchen since 2012, following a decade of quietly working his way through kitchens across the city.
After receiving a culinary arts degree from the Art Institute of Dallas, he was part of the opening teams for Nobu, and then Yutaka Sushi Bistro. He also worked at Nana, the fine-dining restaurant that preceded Ser atop the Anatole; N9NE, the steakhouse at Victory Plaza; and Fedora, the Italian restaurant at One Arts Plaza.
His history covers a wide swath of cuisines and dining styles that serendipitously make a good background for Abacus' contemporary global cuisine with Pacific Rim influences.
"I've been in charge of the kitchen for about three years, so [the promotion] is just my continuing to maintain the level of fine dining that Abacus has been offering all along," he says.
That said, he's nudging the menu in new directions that more closely reflect his perspective.
"We'll probably never stop serving the lobster shooters, that's a signature, but as far as the rest of the menu, we're in a period where the sky's the limit as far as what we can do," he says. "The important themes are Texas and global influences, but we're pushing boundaries on techniques and flavor profiles."
His background syncs up with dining's gravitation over the past few years towards farm-to-table and locally grown foods.
"I'm from East Texas, I lived out in the country and we had a garden outside," he says. "I like to be connected to where I came from, and I get excited about local ingredients."
He's taking that enthusiasm to the Beard House with a menu that opens with buffalo tartare with deviled quail egg on pretzel toasts and smoked rabbit sausages with apple-fennel fritters.
Bigger courses include butter-poached Gulf shrimp with spiced Granny Smith apples and puffed wild rice; pheasant breast with leg confit, savory crêpe, vanilla–parsnip purée, and pickled blackberries; duck breast with almond monkey bread and charred Texas peaches; and venison with green chile-venison tongue tamale and sweet-and-sour onions.
Dessert will be a Homestead Mills stone-ground grit cake with whiskey-buttermilk ice cream made with Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. whiskey.
Once he climbs the Beard mountain, he'll begin work on a new spring and summer menu.
"I think you'll see more blurred lines," he says. "It used to be more definitive that dishes were Asian or Italian, but I see a more contemporary style. We'll stay true to the globally inspired ideas, but there's room for crossover."