Frank Whittaker is the Executive Chef at Prost American Dining & Bar, and we were fortunate enough to ask him a few questions right before Restaurant Week!
• Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the oldest of 5 children. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at age 20 and am a lover of jazz music.
• What made you want to become a chef?
I knew by 12 years old that I would become a professional chef. I wandered into a kitchen thinking it was the bathroom and was hooked, it’s definitely a craft that picks you.
• You’ve made several appearances on television. What was that like?
Doing television is very exciting but so intense. There are long days of re-shoots, and I always had to watch out for the competition. Patience is key… and lots of water.
• What was it like to work with David Burke at Park Avenue Cafe?
I worked with a great crew. It was awesome, very intense and challenging. There was little room for error and you had to be ON everyday… unless it was your day off :). David is the best though and he comes into Prost all the time.
• When you were the executive chef at Moda in Manhattan, you received rave reviews from the NY Times. How did that feel?
Moda was great and I received 2 stars from William Grimes at that time, who was a notoriously tough critic. It felt great for everyone involved front & back to receive that accolade. We went from 20 covers a day to over 200. Before the reviews are published you actually call them, which was wild to call him direct and discuss my food. That was my oscar in the business for sure.
• How long have you been the executive chef at Prost?
We just opened Prost with a new concept and culture about 1 month ago.
• What made you decide to work in Fort Lee?
I moved to Fort Lee to be closer to my family & girlfriend and because it has such a great diversity of food and culture and is so close to NYC.
• Where do you get your culinary inspiration from?
As a chef our inspirations are all around us everyday, most people don’t see it though. Culinary inspirations can come from dining out, my contemporaries, the weather, the culture or even the environment. To me it really comes from life in general.
• What would you recommend as Prost’s best dish?
As far as guests reactions, I’d say the red wine braised short ribs with creamy whips and Scottish salmon “wellington style” are the most popular. The crispy flatbreads are also a big crowd-pleaser. For dessert, it has got to be the hot fudge brownie sundae!! Everything here is made fresh in house.
• What sets Prost apart from other restaurants in Fort Lee?
Prost is set apart by our wow factors; our interior design, the quality of the food and our hospitable service. Guests never know what to expect when they walk in because it was originally a House of Pancakes then a Korean restaurant. But I think that’s what makes it even more exciting, the element of surprise. No one expects to walk in and see this gorgeous space with such high quality food.
• Do you have a favorite ingredient that you like to cook with?
Fresh Herbs, ANY of them! I love basil, thyme, chives, rosemary, tarragon, there are so many. My favorite tools to work with are definitely my spoons.
• What do you want guests to take away from their experience at Prost during Fort Lee Restaurant Week?
We want our guests to take away an incredible experience after eating here, and to keep coming back. We are new and getting busier and better everyday, and I want the Fort Lee community to know we’re here to stay.