News/Profile: COREY COVA - Putting the "FEED" in COFFEED

Corey, bread in hand, out for a Stroll in Yountville, CA.

We are delighted to report that, as a result of recently taking over operations at the beautiful New Leaf Restaurant in Fort Tryon Park, our team now includes the wildly creative, insanely talented, dryly funny, remarkably unassuming chef extraordinaire - Mr. Corey Cova.  Having served as a cook on a Navy submarine, having graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute, having worked at Morimoto, Pure Food & Wine, and Momofuku Ssäm, having opened the kitchens at ABV and Earl's Beer & Cheese, and having co-founded the Upper East Side's Dough Loco, Corey has quite an impressive track record in his still-young career.  Given that his first experience in the restaurant business came as a kid at his uncle's café/roastery near San Jose, CA, we're hoping COFFEED feels like home.

Q&A w/ COREY COVA

MC (Michael Cialdella, COFFEED):  The sandwiches you've added to the COFFEED café menu are some of the best I've ever had.  What's your thought process in constructing a sandwich?

CC (Corey Cova): The major attributes would be: flavor, texture, freshness, appearance, and...humor?  Whatever can get a good cheap laugh, I’m always up for.  So if that opportunity presents itself, I'll take it!  I just try to hit all the senses...be really thoughtful about what we’re doing.

MC:  How would you describe your overall vision for the COFFEED menu?

CC:  Everything is going to be more farm-centered, while staying as convenient as possible.  I imagine there will be a core set of sandwiches and salads that will stay...and then a few seasonal options.  It comes down to how many really good options we can make and figuring out when to insert them into the menu...could be monthly, could be quarterly.  My rule is we have to make/cook everything we use.  Eventually, we’ll be doing all sauces at one location and then dispersing them everywhere else...making everything simple, focusing on what works at what time of the year at what location.  

MC:  Speaking of farm-centered, talk a bit about COFFEED's special relationship with the Brooklyn Grange.  [The Brooklyn Grange operates an extraordinary, acre-sized farm on the roof of COFFEED's flagship location in LIC.]

CC:  It's amazing.  Very few places can offer what the Brooklyn Grange offers.  It makes a big difference from growing outside the city, even relatively close farms in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island, everything from the carbon footprint to freshness.  When you’re dealing with tiny vegetables, they age quicker, so the chance to cut out those steps will make a huge difference.  Also, the Grange is up for growing any specialty items we might need, or even picking something out of the ground sooner.  You can’t always talk directly to farmers; when you can, it’s a big boost!

MC:  What initially attracted you to the New Leaf job?

CC:  The location, more than anything.  It’s a great setting...in the middle of a park with a lot of room.  Working in Manhattan, there’s rarely space for anything.

MC:  After spending three months at New Leaf in 2014, how do you plan on modifying the menu when the restaurant reopens in the spring?

CC:  I’m really looking forward to being super-seasonal, utilizing the Brooklyn Grange farm produce, sourcing everything as locally as possible, and working with good purveyors like my favorite cheesemonger.  I'm obsessed with them and haven’t had a chance to work with them in a while.

MC:  What does the charitable aspect of COFFEED's business model mean to you?

CC:  Restaurants usually have such razor-thin margins, especially the more fine-dining you get, so this opportunity is something that doesn’t come around very often.  It’s great.  It’s a chance to do something good.  I like the synergy you get doing something good for the community, and doing something good for yourself, and for me, it’s for the craft...all these goods come together. I’m excited looking at who’s going to be our partner at each COFFEED location.  It’s really exciting to still have a relationship with NYRP at New Leaf, and the history of The Foundling is incredible.

MC:  Cooking on a submarine seems like amazing preparation for the challenges of working in the NYC restaurant world.  How has your Navy training impacted your career as a chef?

CC:  Overall, it made me a more organized person.  Also, you realize how lucky you are to have really simple freedoms.  When you’re living on a submarine, there’s a ton of things you can’t do.  I was in boot camp, then cooking school, then submarine school, and those things all take months and months...so treasuring the time I have to myself is pretty big.  If I’m going to do something, I’d rather do it the best I can.
 

For more on Corey, check out:

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2013/10/corey_cova_flock_dinner_recap.php

http://firstwefeast.com/eat/bodega-cooking-challenge-corey-cova-abv/

http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2011/earls-beer-and-cheese/