The Roo is a series that profiles the hardworking staff of Red Rooster and Ginny’s, both front and back of house. With so much hidden talent among us, we give nod to those who help make our restaurants such a vibrant place to be.
Joel Harrington, Kitchen Director for Red Rooster
The Roo: You worked with Marcus many years ago in the kitchen at Aquavit. What’s it like working with him again, here in Harlem?
Joel Harrington: This time around has been very different. When I worked with him at Aquavit I was much less experienced and it was my first tour of duty, if you will, in NYC. He and Nils really helped shape my approach towards cuisine and professionalism and it is very rewarding for me to have the opportunity to work with them again on a different level where my experience and growth over the years has come full circle. I find it very rewarding to come back and share what I have learned while revisiting my mentors.
Roo: Tell us a bit about your culinary history. You’ve worked at some large hotels and resorts, so how is it different than working at a place like Red Rooster?
JH: I starting cooking when I was 15. I wanted to go to art school but that was a bit too expensive so I turned to professional kitchens both as a career choice and an outlet to create. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) I worked at Aquavit and then went on to work for the Ritz-Carlton hotel company. There I had the opportunity to open both a city property (Dallas) and a resort property (Dove Mountain) as well as spend four years in Southern California at the Laguna Niguel Property. I eventually moved on and did some work with Stephan Pyles and Charlie Palmer in Dallas and a short stint with Richard Sandoval in Colorado. I have found many differences in working at the Rooster then in a corporate hotel environment but tend to bring the managerial systems and philosophy I had been taught over the years to the restaurant. I compare the Rooster to a small hotel simply because of the layers of service and experiences we offer and have found that this approach is both beneficial for me to grasp and adjust, and for the team to see the vision that Chef Marcus and I have for the growth of myself and the restaurant as a whole.
The Roo: Where are some of your favorite places to visit when you have some time off?
JH: I actually go to Dallas to visit my children when I have time off. I will definitely be visiting Yankee Stadium as often as possible as well as I do bleed blue and white pinstripes. I enjoy walking the streets of this city with no particular plan—it’s just great to be back.
The Roo: What do you like best working at Red Rooster? Favorite menu item?
JH: I really dig the energy of the place and the sense that has been set as the foundation. I also like being back with some familiar faces and surroundings after having spent ten years away from New York. [As for the food], that’s a more difficult question. The eclectic foundation and the vast influences make that a hard one. I taste the line on a daily basis and have a great respect for the variety of flavors.
The Roo: Are there any new dishes you’re working on for Spring?
JH: Well, of course Chef Marcus and I are always looking at different approaches and dishes. I have been spending some time looking at the foods of Harlem over the years and the influences of cuisine during the time the original Red Rooster was in its heyday. I can see some very cool updated versions of the classic Harlem staples of yesteryear making their way on the menu for sure.