What does Julia Sexton—restaurant critic, food columnist, and award-winning blogger—do in her spare time? Lately, she’s been talking to chefs, a whole lot of chefs. For her new book, Hudson Valley Chef’s Table (Globe Pequot/Lyons Press), Sexton ventured from her stomping grounds in Westchester to Columbia County and all points between. The resulting volume, lavishly photographed by Andre Baranowski, is equal parts travelogue and cookbook. Look for recipes and interview-based profiles of the Hudson Valley’s most acclaimed chefs including David DiBari, Dan Barber, Eric Gabrynowicz, Peter Kelly, Zak Pelaccio, and more. It’s a snapshot of the Hudson Valley’s culinary scene right now.
“One of the pities of my work is that, inevitably, I’m stuck in my own head,” says Sexton. “This project gave me the opportunity to interview more than 60 chefs and, really, they’re among the smartest and funniest people I know. Hanging out with them felt like freedom. It was inspiring. This book is a confirmation of why I love chefs and restaurants.”
The Hudson Valley, she says, “holds a unique place in the dining world. I’ve heard it called the Napa Valley of New York—and, true, so many of the ingredients in New York City restaurants come from the Hudson Valley. But there’s also an ingrained counter-culturalism in the Hudson Valley; this is where Timothy Leary and the Woodstock Nation took hold. There’s a palpable, bohemian energy in places like Westchester’s Rivertowns, which makes those restaurants so exciting. Cities like Beacon and Hudson, New York, also have excellent, quirky dining scenes. Every year, chefs jump off the brutal treadmills of top Manhattan restaurants to open their own places in the Hudson Valley, close to where their ingredients grow. And they’re living happier lives and running really creative restaurants.”
Look for Julia Sexton’s Hudson Valley Chef’s Table at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.