Type to search

Westchester Chef Geoff Rudaw Is a Pro Crystal Collector

Share
Pelham’s Geoff Rudaw unearths a two-inch hunk of clear quartz before dusting off to return to the kitchen as a fine dining private chef. | Photos by Ellen Rudaw

The busy private chef from Pelham digs for quartz in upstate New York as a way to connect with nature and blow off some steam.

Long before his days running the Westchester Culinary Society, a fine-dining personal-chef service based in Pelham, Geoff Rudaw attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, like so many of his industry colleagues. And it was from there, back in 1997, that he took a curious road trip to a gem-and-mineral show in nearby Rhinebeck. “I was taken in by the aesthetics of it all,” he recalls. “The colors; the shapes; the cubic, digital-looking crystals.”

He soon started traveling to similar shows, purchasing crystals and amassing a personal collection in the years that followed while honing his craft in some of Manhattan’s top kitchens.

But when he lost his job due to an extended building renovation, it hit him like a ton of bricks: I want to dig these things up myself!

 Geoff Rudaw holding a two-inch clear quartz.

Pelham’s Geoff Rudaw unearths a two-inch hunk of clear quartz before dusting off to return to the kitchen as a fine dining private chef.

Again, he embarked on a road trip, but this time to a commercial mine in upstate Herkimer County, where he put shovel to earth — along with dozens of other hopeful diggers in search of so-called Herkimer diamonds, considered “some of the finest, purest quartz.” Says Rudaw: “It was crowded and a lot of hard work, and I didn’t find much.”

“It’s the most amazing experience when you’ve got this huge, twinkling gem there on your shovel.”
—Geoff Rudaw

However, his luck changed when he received an invite to poke the dirt on a 50-acre property owned by a friend of a friend, also in Herkimer. “I walked into the forest, and I was hooked.” Not only did he uncover infinitely more Herkimer diamonds than he did on his first dig, he found that being in nature was the perfect antidote to the demanding, “hot-pressure environment” of the kitchen. “It’s strenuous, physically grueling work,” says Rudaw of his excavations, “but it’s also completely mentally relaxing.”

Chef Geoff Rudaw

Chef Geoff Rudaw

The real beauty and fun of it, he adds, is that “these crystals haven’t seen the light of day in 400 million years,” when the sea that covered the area began to evaporate, leaving these sparkling, concentrated minerals in its wake. “All these perfect lines formed in nature.” he says. “It’s the most amazing experience when you’ve got this huge, twinkling gem there on your shovel.”

Rudaw has at least 5,000 such twinklers in his collection, including hundreds of scepter crystals — perfectly clear and diamond-like, with shining black material — that he’s collected from the dig site he now frequents six or seven times a year. His biggest treasure is about the size of a men’s shoebox.

Four clear quartzes

His family accompanies him on digs, and he views this pastime as a brilliant way to keep his twin 10-year-old girls out in the fresh air and off their phones. Meanwhile, they’ve all become adept with sledgehammers, metal prybars, and chisels. “It’s good, wholesome fun,” says Rudaw.

He shares some of his discoveries on Instagram (@elephantmineminerals) and even sells a piece or two on Etsy. “That’s just for gas money,” says this consummate road-tripper, who saw a light shining at the end of a tunnel and decided to go for it.


Related: So Where Does “Upstate” New York Really Begin?

;

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Westchester Magazine Newsletter.

No thank you