Girl Power: The Trio Bringing Simple Dining to New York at King Restaurant

Girl Power: The Trio Bringing Simple Dining to New York at King Restaurant

In the land of the big and the bold, the trio is breathing freshness into the city’s food scene. Their light and airy space transports you far from the daily grind of the New York hustle to the family bistros reminiscent of a Provençal village. Here they share what it’s like to be a team of three.

such a frenetic city, the culinary world of New York can
sometimes feel like a competition between the loudest, the fastest,
the most outrageous.

Cue the arrival of King, a charming Soho bistro that’s
quietly turning tables with its pared-back elegance and nod to
simplicity. The spot is the first restaurant by the team of three
bright young things from London – Clare de Boer, Jess Shadbolt and
Annie Shi – and since opening the doors in August, chefs Jess and
Clare and GM Annie have been taking purity and seasonality to new

In the land of the big and the bold, the trio is breathing
freshness into the city’s food scene. Their light and airy space
transports you far from the daily grind of the New York hustle to
the family bistros reminiscent of a Provençal
. Simultaneously straddling nostalgia and modernity,
King revels in the elegance of simplicity – and with a waiting list
which has reached over 100 people per night, something’s going

The daily changing menu takes us on a journey through the girls’
shared childhood experiences of family summers spent in southern
France, to training at Ireland’s fabled Ballymaloe Cookery School
and into the kitchen at London‘s iconic River Café.
Inspired by the slow food movement, and running straight from the
bloodlines of pioneering female chefs before them, there’s a
softness, an understanding of flavour, a respect for the produce
that shines brightly. The girls live and breathe seasonal,
ingredient-lead cooking; alluring dishes like pumpkin ravioli with
marjoram butter sit harmoniously alongside whipped salt cod with
grilled polenta, chilli and olives, and gratifying halibut with
crushed borlotti beans.

But don’t mistake the restraint for timidness – while there’s a
subtlety here that’s rare in the city, there’s also a voracious
appetite and certain swagger that rivals any other kitchen in New
York. We spent an afternoon with the girls to talk food memories,
the family dinner table, and what it means to be a woman in the
kitchen today – middles fingers at the ready.

Tell us about your introductions to food.

Clare: All of my best memories as a child were
made around a table – never feeling more safe than when falling
asleep at the table, at my parent’s laps on the banquette while
they laughed and shared a bottle of wine. And I think Jess had the
same experience around the dinner table with her family.

Jess: The kitchen table was very much the heart
of the family. Sharing meals, the whole element of eating and
preparing food inspired me – my mum was an amazing cook. As well as
home cooking, we both had that introduction of a restaurant being a
kind of exciting place.

C: It was a treat to go out for a meal whether
it be at a fancy restaurant or just a little trattoria in France where we both
spent a lot of time growing up. “What’s for lunch?” or “What’s for
dinner?” has always been the most pressing question on both of our
families’ minds!

How did the idea for King first come about?

C: Jess and I met several years ago. We had
shared footsteps to get there; our paths were always going to join.
We spent our summers probably twenty minutes from one another
without ever knowing! When we met at the River Cafe we had a
similar guiding perspective on ‘how to eat”. The head chef used to
joke that we were like Siamese twins and they couldn’t get a word
in between us – we were always conjoined and laughing and tasting
each other’s food. We would go on long walks around the river
Thames and fantasise about the restaurants we would open one day.
J: Basically, we’re just really greedy!

Tell us about your style of cooking.

J: We want to celebrate simple ingredients that
bring people together and get people talking. We’re not interested
in foam this, mousse that – we believe the soul of a proper meal to
be the people you are with and the atmosphere that surrounds you.
There’s a time and a place for a very fancy tasting menu and it’s a
bit ‘wow’, but you can’t eat that kind of food every week. We
wanted to create an environment that could be a regular spot for
people, to replicate that family dinner table that’s so close to
our hearts.

C: Really filling that sense of nostalgia,
creating a generous environment. River Café kitchen life is a
shining beacon in terms of environment. How they introduce you to
food, train you, teach you how to work as a team – it gives you
this curiosity. We’d be in there first with our tasting spoons – it
just makes you so hungry.

So for you, the kitchen is where relationships are formed?

J: Kitchen life is like a family. You are put
through the mill and you go into battle every night, and at the end
there’s camaraderie about it. You might scream and shout at each
other for three and a half hours, but at the end you know you’ve
gone through this massive feat, the heat dissipates and you share a
family meal and a glass or three of wine together and it all goes
away again. It’s this constant wave of – that’s the beauty of
kitchen life – it’s this continual tide. Every day the show must go
on. When you know what each other are going through that’s such a
tight bond.

You paint such an accurate picture of service! How do you get
through it night after night?

J: It really is a unique working environment
and it can be really bloody tough. Half an hour before service it
always gets a little bit quieter, people are thinking, ticking
things over in their brains, “Have I got everything, do I have
everything I need?” And you’re always wondering how it’s going to
go – will it be busier than last night? Will it be smoother? It’s
that uncertainty, excitement, the adrenaline starts pumping and
before you know the first order comes in and you’re away… We were
taught that a kitchen should be run by hope instead of fear; we’re
both so grateful for that introduction.

You paint a very different picture of kitchen life compared to
the usual angry chefs and swearing and shouting…

J: There’s a bit of that, haha, definitely a
bit of that! C: We’re probably rougher than the
average chef!

Nothing wrong with a bit of edge. Do you find being women in
the kitchen a big talking point?

C: We get spoken to a lot about women in
kitchens and it’s very difficult for us to comment on it because
we’ve never really felt held back by our gender. It’s something
people always ask us about but we don’t have much to say. We’re
like, “We’re women, it’s awesome, we’re doing our thing and we’re
having a blast!” We just want people to come in and have a lovely
dinner, if they’re intrigued by the fact that we’re three women
that’s fine, but the food on the plate is how we want to be

How does being a team of three change the dynamic?

J: I think one of the great things of working
in a three is that you’re automatically a sort of tribe.

C: There’s a boldness that being in a pack
allows you and we never let anyone tell us that our dreams were too
big. We got that plenty of times – every time we showed up for a
first meeting they were like, “Really, you’re doing this? You’re
the chefs?” Everyone met us with a question mark, and if we had
been lone wolves that may been hard to swallow, but we attacked it
like three dogs. With the middle finger, and were like, you come
and see.

How do you think being in New York has shaped your first

J: We’ve been so lucky in all the gifts that
New York has given to us. Where else in the world would three
upstarts open their little corner spot and have such support from
the community? This city has such a wonderful obsession with
restaurants and we are so grateful. We’re so at the beginning of
this journey and we’ve got a long way to go. We want this to be
around for a long time.

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