Sally Rowe was wowed by the food Paul Liebrandt was cooking at Atlas in 2000. Liebrandt was 24 at the time. As a result, Rowe, a documentary filmmaker, was inspired to follow him around for nine years thereafter. The footage came together in 2010 as a documentary called A Matter of Taste: Serving up Paul Liebrandt, and it provides a candid look at Liebrandt's career.
After menu disputes at Atlas, Liebrandt quit and found work at Papillon in 2001. He left less than a year later. "I like to think of myself as a culinary mercinary," Liebrandt says in the documentary while between jobs, "on hire to the highest bidder." Liebrandt started his own consulting company after Papillon and it wasn't until 2005 that he returned to the kitchen: working as the Chef Director at Gilt, a position he held for less than a year. A short stint making cocktails for a large beverage company followed, and in 2007, Liebrandt was approached by restaurateur Drew Nieporent to be chef and partner in Corton, opening in the former Montrachet space in Tribeca.
On the collaboration with Liebrandt, Nieporent says in Taste, "The reason I want to work with Paul Liebrandt comes from the basic instincts that I've had from the beginning, which were, if I'm going to distinguish myself, if I'm going to do a better job than everybody else, then I have to be associated with the best people." Nieporent's instincts earned Corton three stars from the Times, two from the Michelin Guide, and kept the spark dormant that burns within Liebrandt to constantly seek out new challenges. Six years later, that spark has caught fire and the Siberian-born, London-raised chef will soon be splitting his time at Corton and the Elm, opening late spring in the King & Grove Hotel across the river on North 12th Street in Williamsburg.
The current space in the hotel will undergo a complete renovation, so we were asked not to share our pictures of what used to be Pillar & Plough, but the open, lofty, garden-level space that will house the Elm when it opens in late spring is going to be an exciting stage for Liebrandt's new act.
In the hype surrounding Brooklyn restaurants, Liebrandt reveals in a recent interview with Grub Street that he isn't concerned with a restaurant's location, "To me there are only two kinds (of food): good and bad. I mean, Williamsburg is so close, proximity-wise. We're all in the same city; we're all part of it, and it's not really at all like going to the West Coast. It may sound a bit corny, but we're all New Yorkers — I consider myself a New Yorker. For me, it all comes under this "New York" umbrella. I'm proud to be here, and I'm very, very thrilled to be doing this project in Williamsburg." [GrubStreet]