Chef-Parent Interview: Patrick Connolly
Patrick Connolly, owner of RIDER, is a hip, Michelin-approved eatery, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Patrick is a James Beard Award-winner known for whipping up delectable vegetable dishes, but like many parents, he caves to his three-year-old daughter’s culinary whims time and time again.
We chatted with Patrick and learned about the food his family loves, the importance of living near your own restaurant, and why his daugther Sadie is the kid with ultimate VIP status at RIDER.
Interview by Liza Hamm
Tell us about your specific goals with RIDER
My goal with RIDER is to let the menu react to the season. I also wanted to set us apart with the service, not so much the technical side, but to really connect with people and give them a good time. My front of the house does an awesome job creating a comfortable atmosphere, where people aren’t intimidated by the menu. They can relax and try dishes they haven’t tried before.
Do you live in Williamsburg?
I live a block away from the restaurant. Living so close is 100% necessary. We’ve created an excellent situation where I can literally pop home to put Sadie to bed or cook her dinner then I am back on the line in the restaurant. Or I can take a full day off from the restaurant but know that if something serious does down, I can be there in a minute.
Do you do most of the cooking at home?
My wife [Suzanne, a sales and customer service consultant for the kids’ fashion line Egg by Susan Lazar] has probably surpassed me in the last six months. She has taken the initiative to learn a few dinners that she, Sadie and I like.
What does Sadie love to eat?
Suzanne makes stir fry for her pretty often—and baby corn is her favorite. And strangely enough, broccoli. Those are her two vegetables.
Congrats! Not every parent can say their child likes veggies.
That’s true. I don’t want to pretend that just because she’s a chef’s daughter she doesn’t eat crap, because she does. We fall for the cake pop at the coffee shop all the time. I just took her to soccer and picked her up a mint chocolate macaroon—the breakfast of champions. But she’s pretty good. If food gets too fussy, she loses interest. It has to be straightforward. My quick meal [for her] now is roasted carrots and pan-roasted chicken. It takes 15 minutes.
You sound very laid-back….what is your philosophy about kids and eating?
The most important thing is that it’s just real food. Everything she eats has simple ingredients and is more or less organic.
What is your favorite ritual with Sadie at this time?
Just getting a glimpse into that brain of hers. She’s making points and some of them are totally ridiculous but some are very insightful.
Does Sadie help in the kitchen?
She loves it. She’s made meatloaf with me and turkey burgers with Suzanne. I’ll have her pick herbs and she thinks it fun to put salt on everything.
Do you agree that it’s great to get kids in the kitchen at an early age because it makes them more comfortable there?
That’s a luxury I had. My parents both worked so my brothers and I used to prepare dinner for the family, I’ve been comfortable there since I was a kid. It does shock me when I meet adults who have no idea where to start in the kitchen.
What does Sadie like to do at the restaurant?
She comes in for brunch or an early dinner and goes straight to the kitchen to say hi to everybody. Then she likes to go fix herself a sparkling water.
Does Sadie have a fave dish at the menu at RIDER?
It’s definitely pancakes and chicken sausage for brunch. Recently, at dinner she’s loved the spicy pork and broccoli rabe strangely enough. She might avoid the pork in it though.
Do you like to take her to other restaurants in the neighborhood?
Of course, There was a time between 2-3 years old when we didn’t take her out because she would throw glass or food, She just turned 3 in May and we’re back to being able to take her to a restaurant for an hour. We like to go to Esquina diner because they have an outdoor area where she can run around in and not do too much damage. We also take her to Sunday in Brooklyn for brunch.
What’s your policy about kids in the restaurant?
We’re completely kid-friendly. We try to be creative and find ways to occupy children so their parents can have a meal. It helps that I have a child. Parents don’t make a huge ordeal about having their kids at the restaurant, and the kids are chill and know their way around a restaurant table. They know how to order. It’s awesome to see.
Why is that a positive thing?
[It’s about] laying the ground work for being polite. Manners are huge. It’s also about the urban idea of the family table. Families of all sizes and ages are pulled in several different directions every day, especially in New York. Sometimes it’s just more efficient to have everyone meet at one of their favorite restaurants. You maximize the time spent at the table, and not in the kitchen or on that last leg of the commute. Plus, there’s no clean up.
Being a Dad certainly inspires Patrick to make RIDER very kid-friendly, and that’s no surprise to N+S since he hosted one of our first events! Families should also visit the restaurant in conjunction with Puppetsburg, which performs there every Wednesday, and definitely check out the performances at National Sawdust, a very cool concert venue attached to RIDER.