Interviewing guys for this column is always amusing. Chef Hugh Horner warned me, “I don’t have a style and don’t have any name brand things!” But after digging he surprised himself. Sometimes it takes an interview for dudes to really look at what is in their closets and drawers.
Growing up in Atlanta, Hugh moved to Charlotte and started cooking and ‘realized it was for real’ so he high tailed it up to New York City. Although he never went to cooking school, he had been in the kitchen since he was a kid, so it came naturally.
Horner opened Williamsburg Cafe and introduced Southern food to the neighborhood and people really ate it up so to speak. “The one movement that still hasn’t been done properly in New York City is Southern food,” Hugh laments. He started spending more and more time in the idyllic mountain town of historic Hudson, met his gal and moved up permanently. “It’s almost like the South by accident up here!” Horner chuckles. He has been there full time for three years and thoroughly in love. “We have a family scene, an outdoor scene, a gay scene, we got it all up here!” he smiles.
Every day he is at farms choosing local beef and pigs and vegetables for his restaurant, Helsinki. In just one day he can hit six farms where each farmer is trying something new. “Most chefs have to follow a menu and constantly find the ingredients for those dishes. I have the real chef’s dream when I buy a pig and come up with a dish,” he told us.
We asked if he found the farm to table trend really happening and he happily explained that, “There are two types of farmers up here now. There are a lot more young farmers. They are doing back breaking jobs and sporting tattoos and into it, so it is positive and we are going the right way. People are giving a shit about food again. Then you see the fifth generation farmer too, who is doing a good job mentoring these young kids. That has impressed me the most, the young influx.”
Helsinki has become a major must dine place when people from the 212 area code head upstate. Hugh built a BBQ smoker named ‘Atticus’ and is changing Northerners’ perception of the Southern staple. “Everyone up here slathers their meat in sauce and that isn’t right. It has to be properly smoked and served with fresh vegetables,” he continues, “People think everything we eat down South is fried, but serve them a rabbit gumbo and it sells out! People up here are digging down-home recipes.”
Here is Hugh’s recipe for his daily style:
Jeans: I love comfort and it is Levis all the way
Shoes: I wear Frye boots when I’m not in my chefs clogs.
Uniform: I wear whites most of the day. 100% cotton, none of that rayon shit. Don’t cheap out on your chef whites! You will pay for that. Clogs from Dansko. They last me two years and help my back a lot. Stand 13 hours prepping and cooking and your back takes a beating.
T-shirts: I have a massive t-shirt collection and I am really proud of it. I have shirts from New Orleans to Quebec. If I go to a good bar I buy the shirt!
Casual Shirts: I wear a lot of flannel living up here. I don’t remember the brands, my girl gets them for me.
Dress Shirts: Brooks Brothers for when I go out to nice restaurants. I am 6’ 5” so things can be too small for me but their shirts fit perfectly.
Headgear: I don’t wear hats, mostly bandanas.
Sunglasses: Just whatever I find. When you work with pigs blood you can’t buy nice things!
Photo courtesy of Kyle Kreig