Keeping Tabs on: The Grey Dog

Starrett-Lehigh is a socially conscious building; our values transcend our operations, our programming, our businesses, and of course, where we eat. One of our favorite restaurants is The Grey Dog’s Chelsea location. Grey Dog values its food quality above all else which includes locally sourcing as much as possible.

We recently sat down with Chef Allan Walker-Hodkin, The Grey Dog’s VP of Culinary to learn more about the restaurant’s mission and how Allan contributes to the restaurant’s success. As an added bonus, The Grey Dog Chelsea would like to offer the #StarrettFamily 10% OFF delivery to the building. Use promo code: YUM&YUMMER to take advantage of this deal!

Additionally, you’ll be able to meet Chef Allan in person at Starrett-Lehigh’s annual Taste of Local event on April 25! In the meantime, get to know Chef Allan below.

Describe your role on The Grey Dog team.
I’ve been the VP of Culinary at The Grey Dog since May. My main responsibility is meeting everyone’s needs – from the staff to the customer – as best as I can; it’s my job to use my dishes to create a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere where people want to spend their time.

What is the most popular menu item?
Easily the Grey Dog’s Breakfast. You get a little bit of everything you want for breakfast including eggs, French toast or pancakes, and bacon, sausage or avocado. It’s even more popular with home fries.

However, I think a new menu item, the Fried Chicken Sandwich, has potential to take that title. We just rolled it out at all of our locations and have been receiving a great response.

How do you create new menu items?
We work seasonally and pragmatically. The process varies, but we always consider our sourcing; we like knowing where we’re getting our ingredients from and that they’re of the highest quality. For example, our beef is ASPCA rated and from Pennsylvania, our eggs are all from the Hudson Valley, and our mixed greens are always local. We love finding new seasonal ingredients from farms close to us.

Second, it’s about exploring new flavors and ingredients that complement our cuisine. We are first and foremost authentic American fare and want to keep that consistent throughout our seasons and experimentation.

Finally, it’s about the customer experience. Can we prepare this new dish quickly? Will the new dish be aesthetically pleasing? We want each customer leaving satisfied every time.

What is your favorite seasonal item?
RAMPS! These are only available two or three weeks per year in late April. They’re what every scallion wants to be! They’re very versatile, you can add them to almost any dish or you could eat them alone, by pickling them, or just grilling them with salt. Ramps are specific to the east coast, but they’ve become really popular across the country.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
Honestly, I love grilling vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, but I am a conscious meat eater. Everything in moderation.

Where did you learn to cook?
My mom used to cook everything and of course she was a fantastic cook. I learned so much from her, but I also learned a lot by working in the kitchens of Manhattan. My first job in the kitchen was as a prep cook 10 years ago at Five Points. They were really early to embrace the concept of farm-to-table. We would always go to the farmers market for produce as a team and the farmer we worked with for our pork would deliver it himself, carrying a whole hog through the restaurant during service. Marc Meyer was the head chef there and was so passionate; he was a great role model.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
Cognitive Psychology. That’s what I studied at school. I’ve always been interested in learning about people and understanding their thoughts and actions. However, I quickly learned that this would involve a lot of time sitting in the library, and I was just too young for that.

What I learned as a chef, however, is that food is one of the things that brings people together and connects us. It is a great way to learn about people and no library is required!

What’s your favorite thing about working in Chelsea?
The neighborhood is so beautiful. There is a sense of community and family where everyone knows each other. Additionally, in Chelsea, you’re so close to the water, but still have the excitement of Manhattan, plus with Citibikes, getting around is easy. Finally, the neighborhood is still evolving and it’s fun to witness and be part of the transformation.

What makes Grey Dog the best lunch spot in Chelsea?
When you walk in here, you see the smiles and you feel the warmth. People come here to eat, to do work, to hangout; it feels like home. We have an energy where people want to spend time here, but our community is also considerate where everyone is aware when it’s busy and when it may be best to share the space with others.

The Grey Dog was started by two brothers who are still greatly involved in everything we do; they even made the tables we’re sitting at now! They set a tone where we ask everyone how their day is going, and we want to know the answer.

Finally, it’s because of our restaurant’s secret ingredient. Love! It might sound hokey, but love is in everything my team and I do. We’re not competitive about food, we only want to make people happy and keep the love alive in our space. It’s super freaking important!

*Please note, the delivery discount is only valid from Grey Dog’s Chelsea location.