In an area best known for pizza and ice cream, Atrium Dumbo introduces a menu of farm-fresh French cuisine. With high ceilings and an open kitchen, the restaurant is a waterside oasis that feels miles away from the traffic trundling across the Brooklyn Bridge up above. A veteran of the kitchens of Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud, Chef Laurent Kalkotour has cooking in his genes: his great-grandfather was a Michelin-starred chef. Kalkotour sat down with us at one of his rustic wood tables to talk food philosophy.
How did Atrium Dumbo come about?
There are three of us partners: Alexander LaPratt is the sommelier and Leslie Affre is the GM. Both of them live in Brooklyn, and when they met the former owner in the street, they started to talk. We came to visit the place, and right away we fell in love.
You’ve worked in some pretty amazing kitchens. What did you take away from them?
Alain Ducasse is one of my biggest mentors. When I started with Mr. Ducasse at a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Monaco, I learned it’s about simplicity and respect of the produce. Take the best of each ingredient and put it on a plate. Simplicity is the hardest thing to do. I have a chicken dish—it’s just yogurt with toasted pine nuts and harissa, a spiced eggplant, and then a nice breast. You see three ingredients; I don’t want ten components on the plate. I’m not into molecular gastronomy.
You’re also from Aix-en-Provence—what influences from the South of France can we see in your menu?
I’m from the south, so I have the Mediterranean background—all the beautiful food starting from Spain, the Basque region, Italy, going down to Greece. All of my menu is about using the French technique. Like we’re doing a spoonbread that is like a soufflé, so I’m combining a southern recipe with a French background.
Did you learn anything from your great-grandfather?
He passed away when I was young, but I have all the stories. I have always been in the kitchen with my mom, and my grandma used to have a little farm, as well, with ducks, chickens, and rabbits. I didn’t know I wanted to be a chef until one day my mom said, ‘Why don’t you try it?’
Farm-fresh food is a big trend right now. What does it mean to you?
Right now we are really using a lot from Union Square Green Market. For us it takes two minutes to cook a carrot, but for for the farmers it takes much more than that to take care of it and let it grow. I think it’s very important for my part to make the cooks understand where all that comes from.
Experience Atrium Dumbo for yourself: find them at 15 Main Street, Brooklyn.
By Allison Malecha
Photo Credit: Atrium Dumbo