When The Plaza Hotel in Midtown Manhattan cancelled all its events for 2020 amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, Executive Chef Geoff Rudaw found himself in the same hot water as many of his industry colleagues: out of work and without a paycheck. “I usually cook for 400 to 500 events per year,” says Rudaw, who lives in Pelham and has been furloughed since mid-March.
Five years at The Plaza and a quarter-century making culinary magic in top hotels across the city, Rudaw quickly concocted a recipe to stay afloat. “I could bring The Plaza experience to people in Westchester.”
With the summertime debut of the Westchester Culinary Society, Rudaw began offering small, in-home classes on restaurant-style cooking, plus catering, private-chef services, and ready-made meals complete with reheating directions and photos of how food should be arranged on the plate. “I provide a premium product with a focus on presentation,” he says.
Westchester foodies (mostly families) have enjoyed the privilege of feasting on prized Plaza dishes, like cornflake-crusted crab cakes with shaved vegetables and Creole remoulade; grilled Portuguese octopus with saffron aioli accompanied by marinated chick peas and frisée in romesco sauce; and the signature Long Island duck breast with Burgundy-braised red cabbage and pommes Anna, finished with a Valrhona chocolate-orange sauce.
Believing no dinner is done without dessert, Rudaw also provides Plaza sweets, like chocolate carrot cake, truffles, cranberry cookies, or pâte de fruit. “But if a customer wants ribs and french fries, I’ll deliver ribs and french fries,” he says.
Either way, most ingredients are locally sourced, though he also relies on trusted purveyors outside the area. “There’s a farm I love in Ohio that sends me exotic things, like cuca–melons [miniature watermelons], radishes the size of a quarter, and tomatoes half the size of a dime.”
Rudaw is due back at work sometime in the new year, but he wouldn’t be surprised if Plaza events remain on hold until at least the spring. This means that Westchester foodies have that much more time to enjoy fare from one of the world’s most famous and exclusive kitchens in the comfort of their own homes.