The regularly updated selfies on the Instagram account of Angie Mar are, more often than not, met with a blaze of fire emojis from her 16k-plus followers. How else to respond to this cool New York chef whose personal style signifiers include white goat fur by Rochas, combat boots by Chanel, arm candy by Vuitton and – the killer touch – a hulking great dry-aged prime rib by New York’s best butcher, Pat LaFrieda? Badass should do it.
I catch up with Angie over vegetable juice (her daily dalliance with herbivorism) and steak tartare – it never lasts long – in London on a flying visit to cook at Hawksmoor’s annual charity dinner in aid of Action Against Hunger. Angie adores London – her Taiwanese mother grew up here – and plans to open in the city one day but for now her focus is The Beatrice Inn, the West Village chophouse she took over from Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter in 2016 after two years in its kitchen.
For New Yorkers, ‘The Bea’ holds a host of associations. It began life in the 1920s as a speakeasy where F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald would hang; for the next 50 years it was a wildly popular Italian red-sauce joint; then, from 2006 to 2009, it was the centre of the universe, an after-hours den frequented by everyone from Chloë Sevigny to Lindsay Lohan, Kate Moss and the late Heath Ledger. “It was insane,” smiles Angie. “I definitely wasn’t cool enough to get in.”
Now, in the glittering light of the club’s original disco ball, The Beatrice Inn enters a new chapter. “I want to make it one of New York’s classic restaurants,” she tells me. “You go to New York, you go to Keens, you go to Per Se, you go to Carbone, you go to Beatrice.
“I’m all about New York, this all-embracing, all-encompassing ‘come as you are’ city,” continues the Seattle-born chef. “I want The Beatrice to be a representation of that. You can walk in on any night and you’ll see a table in black tie, another in backwards baseball caps.”
Angie, now 35, came to professional cooking just eight years ago, having quit commercial real estate in Los Angeles to pursue her passion in New York. She’s acutely aware of what a privilege it is to be doing what she loves: her Chinese-American family had little choice but to work in kitchens. It went well for them – her aunt Ruby Chow was a Seattle restaurant legend (who famously employed Bruce Lee as a dishwasher) – but it wasn’t their dream for Angie. “As a kid I’d be told ‘go to college, make something of yourself, don’t do this’, so it’s kind of ironic going back to it. It’s in my DNA.”
As a result, perhaps, she’s brilliantly unapologetic about her choices. “If I’m going to cook, I’m going to cook food that takes you out at your knees. You’re going to leave that meal and think ‘what just happened?’. I’m never going to put a cut of salmon on the menu because someone told me I should. My goal is to make the restaurant very singular. The menu’s a reflection of what I personally love to eat.”
There are groaning crustacean platters, slabs of beef (often aged and butchered by Angie), whole animals, historical dishes (“I’ve never met a medieval dish I haven’t loved”) and a version of the braised pork shoulder she’s been making since she was 15. As for vegetables, “we have parsley”, she laughs.
I’ve never seen a menu quite like hers. Here’s a sample: whole applewood smoked rabbit, rhubarb, snail butter, elderflower, laurel; milk-braised pork shoulder, jasmine rice soubise, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, sage; ‘Sea Pie’, an 18th-century pie of smoked boar, lamb shank, pork cheek and duck leg; 160-day whiskey-aged tomahawk, lobster butter, smoked vanilla, truffles, thyme. This last dish, served to the whole table, involves tipping a bottle of single malt over the beef each week, hence its $700-1,000 price tag (there’s a waiting list).
“I want people to have this really beautiful elegant meal but at the same time there’s something so primal about it,” explains Angie, who earned her stripes at Andrew Tarlow’s Brooklyn restaurants and at April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig. “When we’re putting dishes together, there are masculine and feminine influences in each dish. You have these big beefy pieces of meat, maybe smoked over French oak or cherrywood, then other influences that bring some sort of femininity to it, whether it’s elderflower, jasmine, marjoram, plums. It’s the contrast of ideas on one plate that I think is really beautiful.”
Her approach has gone down a storm. “We don’t have a Michelin star yet,” she says, but she has taken The Bea from zero stars in the New York Times (in 2013) to two and a peach of a write-up in 2016. However, all the glowing reviews, awards, photoshoots and celebrity fans won’t be how Angie measures her success. For this, she looks to her young chefs. “When they’re done working for me, they need to be ready to go and do something else and something better. Five or 10 years from now, when we look at everyone who’s in my restaurant now, my hope is they will surpass me. That will be the true testament of how successful I’ve been.”
Favourite dish: To eat, tortellini bolognese at Carbone. To cook, oxtail stew.
Most memorable meal My first James Beard dinner in 2015. We got all these illegal meats shipped in to the US from all over so we had all these amazing cuts. The most memorable part of the dinner, that people still talk about, was the bone marrow bourbon crème brûlée. No one had ever seen it or tasted it before.
Chef or food personality she most admires Nigel Slater – the way he talks about food and the way he writes about it, just a romantic air that I turn back to time and time again.