5 mn with… Ben Towill and Phil Winser

Profession: Partners of Silkstone


Who are you guys?

Ben Towill, 26: I started my career as a chef in the kitchen’s of Raymond Blanc (of Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons) at the age of 16, working daily side by side with him.  From there I went on to Rick Stein’s in Cornwall where I learnt everything possible about seafood, how to fish for it, prepare in and cook it! Gordon Ramsay’s empire was my next step, first in London then New York where I was picked to head up a team at his new restaurant and then personally accompany Gordon on his Nationwide TV tour for Gordon’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Once in New York I opened the popular restaurant – the Kingswood and a year later left to start Silkstone with Phil.

Phil Winser, 25:  I’m a Event Planner and Designer for Silkstone. I have trained in the hospitality industry since I was 14, with one of my first events being at the British Royal Palace I have experienced the highest echelon of service. Their attention to detail and unmistakable perfection inspired me to enter into the hospitality industry. I spent a considerable time with London’s finest event planners – Admiral Crichton Events and Catering – putting on huge production events all over the world.  I also worked at Party Ingredients where I learnt the highest level of planning, management and service through high profile events at locations such as the British Royal Palace.

How or why did you decide to work in the food industry?

Ben: I grew up in-between British Countryside and Coast, where I developed a real understanding of what it takes to produce and source ingredients that not only taste of the highest quality but are produced with integrity and passion.  My family have also been macrobiotic for years, which has been a great influence and inspiration in my cooking and approach to food.

Phil: Coming from a family who’s life (work and play) has been centered around looking into the worlds geography and ecology, I have always been passionate about building a sustainable future. I have also always loved food and in particular the fact that it brings together everyone and provides a great platform for great conversations and even better times.  I have always sourced my food locally (ideally growing it from home) so have realized and enjoyed the benefits of this using local or homegrown quality produce for cooking for a long time. Design is another major part of my life, having followed restaurant, hotel and bar design especially closely my whole life.

When was Silkstone born and what is the concept?

Silkstone officially started in October 2008, but we first thought of it together at school at the age of 16. Silkstone is committed to delivering creative, innovative and sustainable food, lifestyle and design concepts, focused on events, restaurants and developing brands through unique experiences. It is born from the notion that there are two essential ingredients to the service industry:  The stone represents the intensive labor, integrity and commitment, and the silk reflects the creativity, innovation and elegance in which this is presented.

Do you just do large events for private clients or companies or do you do small dinner parties too?

As a comprehensive event planning, design, production and company we look after every aspect to an event, including the catering but do also love being part of the intimate surroundings of a small dinner party too.

Ben, tell me a bit about Silkstone menus.

For our events and catering company we approach every event individually, continually looking for the most seasonal, fresh ingredients.  The journey of farm to plate and the integrity of the ingredients are key to us so we are consistently in touch with our suppliers to get an understanding on how their produce is that very week.  We listen to the clients ideas and try and expand it further, referencing it throughout the food, drink and cocktail offerings but always keeping it true to Silkstone offering balanced, light fresh, intensely flavorful bites. A typical Silkstone meal would be:

Start off party with a cocktail of elderflower, cucumber, and lemongrass vodka, along with a few light bites such as lobster ceviche with passion fruit curd and threads of crispy ginger.  

Then we would move on to the shared dishes passed around communal tables using seasonal ingredients. For example: crisp market vegetables with anchovy and chili dressing.   A salad of sugar snap peas, mint, balsamic caramelized spring onions, pea shoots and baby lettuces all sourced from the nearby Yuno’s farm. A beetroot and Swiss chard crumble that is a savory take on a classic with clothbound cheddar, oats and hazelnuts.  Also as whole grains are such an important part of our menus we would include bulgur wheat tabouleh with kale and blue foot mushrooms.

To finish, it would have to be a berry and pistachio Eton mess (meringue and fresh whipped cream) served in mason jars.

This industry is very challenging in a city like NY, there are so many great restaurants and chefs… what’s the key to success?

Personal service and attention to detail, hard-working happy staff and passionate owners. Simplicity and quality throughout – the food, the design, the service.

Where would you recommend to go food shopping in the city?

Great food shopping can be found all over the city but my one of the most easily accessible places for fresh and quality food can be found at Union square market first thing in the morning. Also the fish market in the Bronx is fantastic for the freshest, flavour-filled and cost-effective fish – but be prepared for a 2am start!  Finally the Essex street market always has some great local producers all year round.

What does a city like NY bring to you?

Ben:  For me, NY is a great place because it is so full of opportunity and life which is not only very beneficial for a start-up company but really inspiring and positive.

Phil: The energy, I feel that anything is possible here and there is always something fun to do.

What is your idea of a perfect day in NY?

Ben: My perfect day would consist of getting up early on a Sunday, its amazingly peaceful as no one in the city is awake! Take the world with the Sunday newspapers (and girly magazines!), maybe heading out for bike ride over to Brooklyn for a wander around the flea market to sample some local delights then as the sun comes down heading back to the city for some rooftop cocktails.

Phil: When I have a bit of a headache – I love to walk around downtown New York, visiting the Russian baths, then heading  to Souen or Japanese for some healthy, light and delicious dinner and then maybe rounding off with a night at the movies – in the summer ideally an open air rooftop cinema. But Its quite fun getting the headaches as well – as they are usually from my great friends bar Apotheke in China Town!

What is your favorite place in the city?

Ben: Visiting Roberta’s in Bushwick for some locally sourced, family style food.  I love the open fire pit outside too!

Phil: The Russian baths on 10th Street is my favorite place and I love hosting a dinner party.

What’s next? Any project?

We have several very fun and quirky weddings in Hamptons coming up which will be great as well as a series of events with a luxury brand (but just in negotiations so can’t reveal the name as yet!)

Also Silkstone have recently been appointed exclusive partners with one of New York’s premiere event spaces – Stephen Weiss studios. A great venue that has had everyone from Def Jam to the Dalai Lama come play & talk. The event space has been developed by Donna Karan whose core principles on design and sustainable, healthy eating marry seamlessly with ours, providing the perfect platform for some great events in 2010!

Lastly, but definitely not least we are building out our restaurant in the lower east side which is due to open in June!  It will be serving modern seasonal British cuisine, which is healthy but still innovative and creatively presented.

Silkstone offices are located 17 Orchard Street, 2nd floor. Tel: 1.646.861.1545. For more info check their Website

Here comes TARTINERY

A gem just opened its doors in Nolita! TARTINERY Nolita is a new concept -you could call it fast food… but gourmet, of course! They serve the best tartines made with the finest French bread and exquisite ingredients. All that in a warm, family-like atmosphere… Maxime, Stephan and Nicolas, little geniuses, are the first to import Pain Poilâne to New York. The menu, simple and delish, offers a diverse selection of tartines, soups, salads and healthy juices. If you are into cheese, we highly recommend the melting Saint-Marcelin tartine, and if you prefer something on the sweet side, the warm Nutella one… culinary orgasm on a silver platter!

Be ready to have a love affair with this place…

TARTINERY Nolita : 209 Mulberry Street @ Spring. Tel: 1212 300 5838. Currently open for lunch, TARTINERY will also be open for dinner around March 20th .

Photos © Marilou Daube

Gottino

You often hear foreigners say that they couldn’t live in NY because they would miss part of their lifestyle, particularly  the food… Well, if there is one thing you can’t complain about in NY,  it’s the food! For the Italians, a taste of home is around the corner at Gottino… heaven on earth!

This wine bar takes you on a culinary trip around Italy, serving you the finest Italian wines, obviously, but also delicious small plates of various hams, cheeses and other local delicacies…

Just to give you an idea of how good it is, note that Jody Williams, the chef of this little -Michelin recommended,  “gastroteca,” started her career at Il Buco… So if you are looking for the perfect place to have drinks and a bite… Look no further!

Note that they have the cutest garden in the back- ideal in the summer!

GOTTINO is located 52 greenwich avenue (bet 10th street and 7th avenue). Tel 1 212 633 25 90
Check out their great blog for more info

The Mast Brothers Chocolate factory

Chocolate junkies can’t help falling in love with Mast Brothers Chocolate. These two brothers work magic in their old Williamsburg factory, where the chocolate bars are all handmade in delicate batches. The most original flavors like Almond + Sea Salt, Pistachios, Fleur de Sel, or Salt and Pepper are wrapped up in gorgeous, old-school papers. For a treat, for a gift or just to look at, they are so tasty and pretty that you’ll want them in your kitchen… It’s the Chocolate Revolution!

Mast Brothers Chocolate can be found in Manhattan at Dean Deluca, Murray’s Cheese and many more. For further info visit their Website

INDOCHINE always and forever…


New York’s iconic downtown restaurant, INDOCHINE celebrates its 25th anniversary. With its stylish ambience, tropical décor, exotic French-Vietnamese cuisine, and yummy cocktails, INDOCHINE is one of these few, time less, restaurant that manages to stay a hip destination after all these years.

INDOCHINE, the book, celebrates twenty-five years of being an important legacy in New York’s downtown social swirl. It gathers Vintage photographs from the 1980s and ’90s mixed with collages and Polaroids taken during the restaurant’s most notorious private parties.  Stories by Moby, Julianne Moore and Bob Colacello are combined with photographs by Roxanne Lowit and Patrick Demarchelier, along with artworks by Francesco Clemente, Helmut Lang, Narciso Rodriguez, and Julian Schnabel and many more…

The restaurant is a must-see and the book is a must-have!

INDOCHINE is located 430 Lafayette Street bet W4th st & Astor pl. Tel: 1 212 505 5111

Indochine: Stories, shaken and stirred. Hardcover / $50.00 U.S.Rizzoli
You can buy the book on their website.

Burger Joint

New York is obviously full of great burger joints but NY Butterfly has a special little something for the one hidden in the Parker Meridien hotel.

When visiting the city, everyone craves for a good burger… This one should definitely be your pick! Not only are the burgers exceptionally juicy and tasty, the place itself is quite surprising. Located Midtown West, inside a fancy hotel, you would never expect such an authentic decor- It takes you straight on a road trip across America with Jack Kerouac by your side… 🙂

Ideal after a walk in Central Park or a visit to the MOMA.

The Burger Joint @ The Parker Meridien Hotel. 119 W 56th street bet 6th and 7th av. Tel:  1 212 245 5000. Click here to see their menu.

Late night cravings…

A bunch of hungry students, tired of late night junk food had the brilliant idea of launching “Insomnia Cookies”, a company that delivers cookies, just out of the oven, till 3am!

Originally created for hard-working students, Insomnia Cookies is now open to everyone – by that I mean us, party people, grossed out by the idea of, once again, eating soggy chips or old leftovers and too lazy to stop at the deli… Sounds a bit familiar?

If you can manage to drunk-dial them before heading home, you’d get there at the same time as the delivery boy! They’ll be warm and melted… Y.U.M!

Insomnia Cookies Tel: 877-63-26654
or click here to see full menu and order online
(runs from Avenue A to the Westside Highway and from 14th to Broome St)