Three men drive north from New York City to go hunting for wild boar. It’s not something they sell in their butcher shop, but nobody’s going to shoot a TV pilot of some guys hunting a cow. They’ve been told of a chase in the snow-coated woods, and agreed to the challenge. They are greeted by Fernando, a professional taxidermist (Portuguese, shaved head, epic moustache), and he and his partner lead the way up the mountain. At the top, they face a door that could open to reveal Jurassic Park.
Brent is recalling this, his first hunting experience, as he makes Old Fashioneds on a giant Boos block in his Bushwick apartment, framed by the American flag on the wall behind him. He empties perfectly square ice cubes into a cocktail shaker and gets to that moment in the story where they’re facing the door at the top of the mountain. It swings open to reveal about 300 tightly packed and helpless boars.
“They wanted to film all of this so they were like, ‘What’s your reaction to this?’ ‘This is fucked up man!! This is really fucked up!’” Scooping cherries into glasses, Brent explains the alleged tie-in to his Brooklyn butcher shop: Fernando’s partner Ziggy, owner of this “preserve” and a “butcher shop” (in the dodgy cabin outside the back of his house), and the “chef” of the pair. “They’re like, ‘Brent you’re kind of a cook, you should talk to Ziggy’ I was like, ‘Yeah I’ll talk to to Ziggy. No problem!’”
So Brent and Ziggy are crouching over a fire in two feet of snow, “discussing” how they make sausages. Ziggy’s giving one-word answers. A small army behind a camera is gesturing encouragingly at Brent; the small army should have probably checked before shooting whether or not Ziggy spoke English.
If being a butcher and being called “the rockstar of food" and offered a television show seems incongruous to you, you’re not the only one. Running a locally-sourced whole animal butcher shop like the Meat Hook, opened in Brooklyn, NY on November 11, 2009 by Tom Mylan, Brent Young and Ben Turley, is a mix of physical labor and the complexities of a small business. Eeking out a profit is the best one can hope for. Their goal? To run an honest business, and pay their farmers—“without them we’re just another bunch of jerks selling pork chops,” their mission statement admits. So the New York Times articles, Brent’s appearance in 30-under-30 roundups, a Lincoln car ad—it’s probably helpful, but it is also, well, totally weird.
Walking through the Brooklyn Kitchen, a cooking supply and local produce shop, past fresh Roberta’s baguettes, Scrabble letter mugs, Lodge pans, fresh pears, and up to the Meat Hook’s counter, you might find, facing you at eye-level, a list of 15 available sausage types, housemade beef jerkey, a stack of vintage Playboys topped with one of their Meat Hook price labels (“MP”), or the smoked face of a pig.
Recently a woman walked in, requested a ½ pound of faux hangar steak and was offered a steak closer to the size of her head. It wasn’t an upsell—the guy just had it out, and knew how to get a smile. As he slipped it back in the glass case, the label of the cut became visible: Just Fucking Do It.
It’s hard not to smile. If Williamsburg’s other locally-sourced butcher shop, Marlow and Daughters, conjures Deauville with its nostalgic life raft of a logo in a charming blue and white, the Meat Hook is a little more Detroit with its unapologetically loud red and its soundtrack of the Murder City Devils and Katy Perry. They spend the day breaking down animals, tweeting obscenities and fat kid jokes about themselves, and listening intently to the requests of 25-year-olds in over their heads, and little old women who only ever buy one thing from one particular employee. They know their customers, and they know their animals, too; periodically they close the entire counter so the full Meat Hook staff can visit their farms, led by the three partners, Ben, Tom and Brent. Or, as Brent refers repeatedly, BenandTomandI.
Brenton Young grew up in Philadelphia, PA. Lest you forget, there is a keystone tattooed on his left forearm. Brenton is his real name; his parents found it in a book after they took so long deciding they were about to get kicked out of the hospital (though grandmother had offered some options: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John?). Brent’s mother is a home economics teacher and, as a child, he often helped her cook. “Food was a big part of our household, but I feel like it wasn’t particularly what we were eating, but that time we were sitting down like, being a family… food awareness wasn’t a big thing in the late ‘80s.” The grown Brent is the product of an appreciation for all food; he’s not squeamish (exception: applesauce - “It’s gross”) and certainly omnivorous. “I’m not into eating like, game meats or adventurous meats for the sake of it. I don’t want to eat a fucking cheetah or a python. I really could care less. But no, I’m not generally opposed to eating anything,” he says. He cooks often: staff meals at work and, at home, seasonal produce from the Brooklyn Kitchen and a lot of steaks, sometimes on an Argentine grill on his back porch that takes, by his estimation, $75 worth of firewood to light.
While getting his Masters in English in Richmond, VA, Brent started working at Belmont Butchery. “I had been told for the longest time that you can’t make a living off of doing anything in food, so I believed it, up to a point. I just missed cooking, a whole lot, and this butcher shop had opened and I just said, anything you ever need, I’m just going to start coming in. Don’t pay me or whatever, just teach me stuff.” After a year, one of the three employees left, and they offered Brent the spot. The decision to drop out seemed potentially stupid, and completely obvious.
After an education at Belmont, Brent moved to New York. Culinary school was prohibitively expensive, but his eyes were open for a job in the food industry. He started frequenting Diner and Marlow and Sons—whole animal restaurants in Brooklyn pioneered by Andrew Tarlow, Mark Firth and Caroline Fidanza. “Fidanza is the one who trail blazed all of this,” he says reverently. “She’s the reason for the Williamsburg and Brooklyn dining scene. She’s absolutely amazing.” But he was fascinated—and began to discuss with Tom Mylan—that while these restaurants were succeeding, there wasn’t a whole animal butcher shop in the area. The two soon began working together when Tarlow opened a grocery and butcher shop, Marlow and Daughters. “We sized each other up for the first two years, and continually still do,” he says of Tom, who has become New York City’s intellectual, well-respected authority on local whole animal butchery. Brent knew he had to play his cards right; from the way Tom spoke it was clear that Brent could teach him a little bit, and learn a lot. Eventually, they decided to start their own shop, bringing in friend Ben Turley as their third partner.
The Meat Hook opened inside Brooklyn Kitchen when the existing supply shop—then very small—moved into a warehouse space that would allow room for more kitchen supplies, groceries, brewing supplies, a full classroom and an in-house butcher. The butcher counter began with a staff of only the three partners to do the orders, break down the animals, make sausage and charcuterie items with the scraps, clean, and serve customers in some way that would make them come back. “We opened in November,” Tom told Eater for their “Shitshow Week 2012” feature on the challenges of the food industry. “Because of Holiday season, we were having to work six and seven 12 hour days a week and so we developed a pretty good sized appetite for Adderall. I started to have hallucinations. Sometimes we’d take too much and just end up, literally, running around in circles. Everyone was cutting themselves in stupid ways because we were so tired and hopped up on pills. I buried a knife into my thumb and cut half way through the tip of my finger with the bandsaw. Then there was the heavy drinking and, well, crying. Lots of crying. Brent and I cried on each other in the dish pit just before Christmas. After that Ben and I would listen to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Storms’ on repeat until we cried because it made us feel better. I watched Almost Famous and cried through the whole 122 minutes. It was just fucking silly, like the touching scene in a war movie where the survivors have a total breakdown but it’s not like we were taking Iwo Jima, we were running a fucking butcher shop. Very embarrassing.”
For most of a year, it was the uphill battle of BenandTomandI doing everything. Their first employee, Sara Bigelow, a former PR girl, found them, and they couldn’t pay her for quite a while. But the business grew: the assortment of “classy” and “trashy” sausages and offerings of stocks, charcuterie and soups, and the size of the staff. House bacon, wings for Super Bowls, ramen stock, Brent’s scrapple, boudins and sweet and spicy Italian sausages, boerewors, andouille, bacon cheeseburger sausages. As a business, they also established a brand identity, primarily through Twitter. “It’s the most unintentional thing in the world,” Brent says. “It’s just like, us being drunk assholes, pretty much. We all work real hard, we do that all the time. We drink real hard, do that all the time.”
With more staff came more education, which they were as eager to share on their blog as their discovery that “That’s What She Said” jokes don’t equate HTML fluency (an apology for the state of their site). “The Meat Hook will be closed on Sept. 17th–19th to take our staff on a trip to visit several of our farms and one of our slaughterhouses. We apologize in advance for the inconvenience to our wonderful customers, but we hope what you miss in chicken breasts we can make up to you with having a much more knowledgeable staff that can answer your every question about our sourcing, farms, the great people who run those farms, and who can shotgun a beer the quickest.”
“We don’t rely too much on previous training,” Brent says of their staff. “It’s more how well you meld with everyone in the shop and how well you can talk to people. Because anyone can learn how to be a butcher. It’s really not that difficult cutting things up, and it’s a bunch of lines.” Four years in, the staff has grown to 10, and even with Tom and Brent mostly out of the shop growing the business in various directions, no matter how busy the place gets, someone will always be running up to the counter, scanning the crowd and making sure everybody’s questions and orders have been taken, making sure to tell you that the Parmesan and parsley sausage you just asked for is chicken-based today, not the usual pork—Is that OK?
These days, Brent spends most of his time being a small business owner. He’s a manager who watches over the finances, schedules the meat, and has newfound enthusiasm for Excel spreadsheets (his girlfriend taught him— “I’m kind of retarded”). Beef is the bulk of their business. “Beef, pork, then poultry, then everything else doesn’t really matter. It’s like 6 percent of our business.” Sausages mostly fall under pork; “everything else” is charcuterie, rabbits, duck and lamb. Making any profit requires “extreme education” across the board. “So generally off of a whole cow, half of it is bones. So if you have a cow that weighs… 100 pounds.” He laughs. “Really small cow. 100 pound cow: 50 pounds of it, go ahead and throw it away. So out of that [remaining 50] it’s a question of how profitable can you make that amount.” When they started, they were grinding about 25% of their beef. “But the more you know, the more you try—you inch that down, inch that down, inch that down; ground beef is the cheapest thing, everything else you sell as steaks so you can make a liiittle bit more money. Making money as a butcher is extremely difficult. Making money as a whole animal butcher shop is next to impossible. So everybody has to just be extremely well-informed. Everything needs to get used. And you need to be educated so you can actually steer customers in the right direction so that something that they’re looking for—here’s a myriad of other options that are actually BETTER than that… Great. You have a repeat customer, and they have an awesome dinner.”
Brent does try to get behind the counter at least once a week, as much as anything to see and catch up with those repeat customers. They are, in a word: rad. Whether it’s that little old lady who only speaks to him, or the guy who buys four chicken breasts at a time (“What are you doing with four chicken breasts, like every other day of the week?! Are you eating chicken breasts for breakfast?!”), the Meat Hook counter has become a part of the community as Williamsburg grows up. “That spot is so prime cause everyone that lives around there has a LITTLE bit of money so they want to spend it consciously which is great, but that also means, yeah I want to eat good dinner, but I can’t go to Diner every night. I’m still going to when I can, but like, three nights a week I’m going to cook me and my girlfriend a really nice dinner, and I can! Cause this is here.” Customers come back bragging about what they made, and ask opinions. There is a look in the eye that invites discussion, and it’s half the draw to the job. At Christmas, people walk in with visions of recreating this thing grandma did. “Guess what? There’s another thousand of you that all have their very specific thing that they want to do. That’s the fun of the whole thing but at the same time it’s so much like, manpower on our end of very highly skilled labor to make that a reality for everyone.” Employing 10 great butchers to meet this demand means Christmas may be busy, but it’s not lucrative. “It’s wild when people come in: ‘I have this ancient Slovenian tradition that I wanna do,’ and you’re just like ‘What?!’ People really come out of the woodwork for weird ass shit, but we’re like, that’s what we love doing so we want to make sure that that can happen.” Around the holidays, the meat counter boasts thank you notes, Christmas cards, and customer gifts—heavy on the whiskey.
As much as their north Williamsburg locale has moved solidly from starving artists to young professionals with concern over the origins of their hamburger patties and the age of their lamb, the neighborhood remains diverse. Take Automotive High School. Only a half mile from the Meat Hook, it is the largest automotive trade school in the country, filled with students from the “food desserts” of East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant. One English teacher started an elective, “Food, Land, and You,” feeding them articles by Michael Pollan, and a steady stream of field trips. Hers is just one of the classes that comes through the Meat Hook, as organized by Brooklyn Kitchen co-owners Taylor Erkkinen and Harry Rosenblum. “It’s exciting but we’re so busy,” Brent says, that suddenly it’s “‘Oh yeah there’s a school bus outside! Now we need to show 30 first graders through our butcher shop.’ But it’s suuuuper fun. The kids are SO great they LOVE being grossed out and it’s so easy to do.” Being generically teased and shown knives and a band saw is just the backdrop for exposure to the idea that meat originates from a carcass, not a fast food box or a small styrofoam flat. In 2011, a successful Kickstarter campaign raised $11,686 to cover the cost of expanding the program and enabling more “Classrooms in the Kitchen” visits.
The other relationships of prime importance are with Lee and Georgia Ranney, Dustin Gibson, Bruce Conover, “Uncle Ron” and the rest of the family farmers who provide animals to the Meat Hook. They are raising pigs where they can rummage for acorns in the woods, and cows on such beautiful and vast land they host vacationers at the farm. Slaughterhouse workers upstate are known to be particular, but have also developed trust for this business that has standards and pays its bills. And they’re people who will allow the whole staff to come up and see the animals and facilities. In between they get visits from Brent, who brings beers to the farmers. To acknowledge the favors his favorite slaughterhouse worker does (example: they learned the hard way that you have to plan 3 months in advance for a 4th of July order), he will hand-deliver cannolis.
Over a year ago, Tom Mylan left the shop for 6 months to write The Meat Hook Meat Book, a 400-page “cross between Joe Beef and Stéphane Reynaud,” according to Brent. The basis for the book is trust—trust in their knowledge of butchery, cooking, farming, music. It’s the original idea of their shop: “Everything was becoming very quickly twee in Brooklyn and very, very precious and there’s no need for it whatsoever. We’re trying to run an honest business that is simultaneously very approachable and that’s it,” Brent explains. Being un-precious did reign perilously for a while, but while the spirit is still there, they have grown up a bit. For example, they’ve ended Brunch—a single table, reservation-only spectacle that took place in their shop on Saturday mornings. The meal was subject to live tweeting by the staff (with photos), as Brent did the cooking:
“1st Course: Bear Fight: Jäger bomb followed by a car bomb. Bear fight in your stomach.”
“2nd course: buffalo chicken mozzarella stick cheesesteak”
“Taquito stuffed burrito”
“Whatever does not kill you at brunch makes you fatter!!!”
“Otter pop + carbonated Vodka = Fruitopia!!!”
“Fishes of mystery!!! What are they filled with? Probably not urine!”
“Deboned chicken stuffed with Parm-ish chicken then Calzone’d.”
“One of these men puked.”
But as brunch wore on, “when it came to Saturdays, we were actually succeeding remotely as a business,” Brent says. “We were actively ignoring customers to make tiny pancakes… it’s become more apparent that ultimately we are running a business, and we can’t just do what we want, whenever the fuck we want.” So brunch was 86’d. Brent has learned Excel. Recently they even brought in a business consultant for three months to define the roles of each partner, to create an employee manual, and encourage everyone to communicate when things are at their busiest, with Tom off writing a book and Ben developing a program to sell their sausages to local retailers. And Brent? He’s been a little busy with Rippers.
In 2011, Andrew Field of Rockaway Taco won the bid to fill the concession stands along the public beach, and turned to the owner of Vinegar Hill House, the team at Roberta’s Pizza, and the Meat Hook guys; Brent had worked in the kitchen at Rockaway Taco when he first came to New York (he also worked in the kitchens at Diner and Vinegar Hill House. In the years since he started his own business, he’s spent many a day off sitting around Rockaway Taco, reading with a beer; this, along with farm trips, has been his most frequent escape). The Meat Hook and Roberta’s decided on a joint venture—a beach burger shack—and Rippers became a purveyor of burgers, hot dogs and It’s-It ice cream sandwiches and a general promoter of sharks, neon, cleavage and cheap beer. The summer of 2011 was a success, though they had to fire their general manager at the end of the season. Then Thanksgiving hit at the Meat Hook, and the concession they’d restored just a few months prior was never properly cleaned and closed. At the dawn of the next summer, a total refresh was in order. The sentiment? “Thank God we never have to do this again.” At the end of a second successful season, they closed properly to safeguard against the damage of neglect and the salt of the sea. This time it was, “Great. We’re good to go. And then there was that little hurricane.”
The parks department did restore the concessions. First, they had a floor again. Then water and electricity. The Rippers team was miraculously handed back a fresh, clean space in a still-ailing community. It was two days before Memorial Day weekend when Brent, and Dom and Chris from Roberta’s took a deep breath, then scrambled to install kitchen equipment and give the place a bit of it’s old vibe. They were the only concession to open for the holiday that is the traditional start of beachgoing in the humid continental climate of the northeast. It had been 41 weeks since Hurricane Sandy killed 285 people, displaced 300,000 people from homes in New York and New Jersey, shut off power for millions before a cold front, prevented access to a fire raging uncontrollably in Breezy Point, Queens, and brought record-level surf into New York Harbor with a 32.5-foot wave.
“From the big concession at 96th St, and there’s a big concession at 106th—both of those beaches were so eroded they were shut down, so the only place you could go to the beach was in front of Rippers,” Brent explains of the landscape they reopened to. “So our business pretty much quadrupled like, the first weekend,” compared to the season prior. “The first month was just renovations to accommodate the amount of business we were doing… just to make it so that your line of 50 people could get their food quickly.” He snaps in rapid succession, his voice matter-of-fact—and still totally full of awe and disbelief. “I was running the line cooking the first two weekends. By choice—I wanted to be the one to understand how it worked so that I could like, make it better, and it was just SO overwhelming that I’m cooking and literally you’re standing RIGHT THERE looking at me like, ‘Where’s my food?’” Rippers uses little paper sheets to transfer orders from the cashier to the cooks. Completed orders are stacked onto a ticket stabber, that device that sits mostly empty at your busy local diner. The first Saturday, they filled it up twice, and started on a third time.
Crossing Broad Channel on a Saturday evening in August, 2013 at the end of an 81 degree day, things look mostly the same. A motorboat in the reeds could’ve been there for years, the A train is rumbling along normally, and the sunset is still beautiful. On the other side of the channel, arriving in the Rockaways, the landscape is littered with dumpsters, and the view across the residential blocks is one of holes in tiled roofs. A Parks Department banner at the subway stop shows a map of closed beaches. At 7:00pm the streets are eerily quiet, but crossing through the vacant parking lots of mini strip malls, there is music in the distance. The faint sound of very loud punk music (The Adolescents’ “I Hate Children”) gets very much louder as an optimistically bright green building, painted with the leaf of the New York City Parks Department, comes into view: the 86th Street Concession, overflowing with customers again.
Step one is ordering your food. Well, step one is joining a line of north Brooklyners in their particular variety of beachwear and locals, some who arrive with young children. Standing in line, there’s plenty to look at: twinkle lights around shelves of chotchkes and leis; posters for the evening’s “Queens World Film Festival Rockaway Night” being set up on the beach outside with a flashlight; a warning against drinking and swimming; a line cook in a rainbow bandana making a good faith attempt to yell to a Robert that his food is ready; a little boy, not over 3 years old, jumping up and down to a live punk band. Between songs, the sounds of flights leaving JFK and hammering construction take over. It’s time to order. Hot dog? Fish torta? Veggie burger? Hard body? Cheeseburger.
Then it’s limbo as customers are summoned with a yell of the name, and handed a small paper box, or a whole Naragansett beer flat of food. Name called and burger in hand, seating is hard to come by; the large boardwalk terrace is coated in a tight layer of diners, musicians, their audience, and friends just enjoying a beer next to the beach.
Brent emerges from the crowd in a short-sleeved pink collared shirt, cuffed jeans, a camouflage cap and white Vans, leaving his conversation at an overflowing picnic table to take out the trash, dragging the bag away from the bright lights and revelry and toward the side of the concession, which faces a cordoned off, unpopulated stretch of beach. At the waterline, birds take full advantage of the privacy. On the dunes, a Caterpillar bulldozer makes laps back and forth over the concrete-grey sand, smoothing the assaulted beach back into a welcoming gradient, headlights penetrating the misty dusk.
Seat secured, it’s time for that cheeseburger. At Rippers, they don’t ask questions. It’s all in: potato bun, lettuce, onion, pickle, pink sauce, an American-Cheddar blend and a ⅓ pound beef patty that is expertly browned and drips deliciously. This is a multi-napkin affair.
By November of 2013, Rippers has closed for the season. The Meat Hook Meat Book is set for a spring release and is undergoing copy edits. The photography is done, as is design; Brent hasn’t had time to even look at it. The retail sausage program is inching closer to overcoming the great legal hurdles of distributing cryovaced meat. The Meat Hook is busier than it has ever been, and they’re once again facing the challenge of Thanksgiving. “We’ve always had to rent refrigeration for an entire week to store 400 turkeys… renting refrigeration for a week costs $10,000… You think, ‘Oh man those guys must be raking it in cause they’re selling so many turkeys!’ It’s like, noooooo it’s a service that we want to provide as a really great butcher shop but it’s so difficult to do. It’s part of the growing pains—just because you have a big holiday doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of income.” The thing is, building refrigeration for 400 turkeys also costs about $10,000. They’ve just never had the space until this year, in their new sandwich shop. Oh yes, there’s that too.
It’s a cold night, and Brent is in the moment between a beer and a whiskey. His phone won’t charge, and he’s picking at it, “trying to get years of dust out.” It has been a really fucking long day, finishing demolition work at the new site, on Lorimer Street between Ainslie and Powers, next to a well-trafficked Gimme! Coffee, and 8 blocks from the Meat Hook. The Meat Hook Sandwich Shop will fill one of the few voids left in Williamsburg food; each day for the last two weeks of construction work, Brent has faced the great question: “Oh God I can’t wait to each lunch what am I gonna eat for lunch?! There’s nothing to eat for lunch. Unless you wanna go to a restaurant.” So it’s a good thing for the neighborhood that Brent’s been obsessed with sandwiches for a really long time.
“I’ve wanted to have a sandwich shop as long as I’ve wanted to have a steakhouse, if not before, which predates even wanting to have a butcher shop. Total like, adolescent dream job… it’s fucking hoagies and six packs to go.” Caroline Fidanza has Saltie, a sandwich shop with a cult following, only a few blocks away. But they aren’t competition; while Fidanza offers, for example, the Clean Slate—hummus, bulghur, pickled veg., yogurt sauce and naan—the boys are building the Best Pizza of sandwiches.
“It’s just always been logical, as I learned more about butchering in particular: alright I want to be able to make really great roast beef, a) so we can sell it, but I also just want to eat really awesome roast beef sandwiches because nobody MAKES it. It’s stupid. It’s something that can be really, really good, but every place just sells Boar’s Head and that’s it,” Brent says, baffled. “The simplicity of deli meats is something that everybody loves, everybody identifies with, and nobody does like, a real, actual high quality product.” Brent had been visiting real estate out of “curiosity” (a steak restaurant was one of their other maybe-someday ideas), and when the long, thin space at 495 Lorimer Street (last an occasionally open restaurant called Lady Octopus) became available it didn’t take much convincing for the team to get on board. The space was well-suited to a sandwich shop, Brent had been making staff meal sandwiches for years, and the proximity and additional room would alleviate some current growing pains. Example: that 400-turkey refrigerator.
The two businesses will be closely tied; because the butcher counter purchases whole animals, the sandwich shop will have access to the highest quality cuts they couldn’t buy alone. And the sandwich menu will be dictated by what’s available from those whole animals, and the time of year. “We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible… 4 or 5 sandwiches on the menu, and then everything else is just going to be specials that will run a couple days and we’ll see… alright if we have 4 cows, that means we have 8 briskets, how long can we run a corned beef special? Is it two days? Is it one day? Is it six days? All of it is just ebb and flow of how can you moderate the product that you’re using, but if you wanna work with the best shit, this is what you’ve gotta do and yeah, like I said, this is just the dream job of the 16-year-old me, so it’s super fun.”
The staples will be: the roast beef sandwich, the roast pork sandwich, the quintessential Italian hero, the bologna sandwich. There are a lot of bologna ideas going around right now. Over drinks, over email. “This is literally our life. It’s ridiculous.” The rotating specials will be seasonal. A July sandwich, for example, will be brimming with summer produce. “Seasonal cooking in my mind translates very well to sandwiches,” he says. “The roast beef sandwich will probably be like, a horseradishy, very sharp cheese, gravy sandwich in the winter, but when you get it in the summer, hero roll, oil, vinegar, pepperoncinis, lots of just like, bright vinegary stuff. A country pâté sandwich is something that travels really well picnic-style that we wouldn’t necessarily offer in the winter, but you get excited for in the summer because you can carry it around in your bag for 7 hours and it’s not going to be gross. That’d be really good once you actually get to it.” There will be a vegetarian option. What will it be? Who knows! “Are we going to do breakfast burritos? I dunno. Is that weird for us to do? Maybe! Should we do a bacon egg and cheese? Obviously.” They’ll be open 7am to 9pm. They’ll serve beer. Seating? Some, first come first served (“Not our problem”). The prices? As cheap as they can manage.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. This November morning Brent was standing in the street at 7:30am holding parking spaces for the dumpster. He, Tom and two friends finished just two weeks of demo work (Brent does know what he’s doing—his dad owns a flooring business “So I’ve done my fair share of shitty work”). Tomorrow is powerwashing. The Ansul fire suppression system hasn’t been updated in 13 years and there’s a 12 year cut off. “You might have, like a 16 inch duct going out of your hood vent, but last year they decided that needs to be 18 inch, so now you need to spend $25,000 for a 2 inch difference… running a restaurant in New York is not that much about what you cook, it’s like, whether or not you’re competent enough to actually run a restaurant and do it safely and cleanly, which is crazy.” The projected opening of the Meat Hook Sandwich Shop is January, 2014.
This opening won’t be an Adderall-popping mess though. Experience has bred a more even-keeled team, though they are still excited. “I gotta say the one like, really amazing moment was when we finally decided we were going to tell the rest of our staff,” Brent says. After 4 months of lease negotiations, the strain was visible. “After 4 months, if it’s occupying a lot of my life everyone is like, ‘What the FUCK is up with Brent?’ And then it finally happens and it’s like, UUUUGH GOD IT’S ALL I WANNA TALK ABOUT cause I want everybody to be a part of it cause obviously we’re gonna figure the whole thing out together. Like I said, I don’t have a set plan for it, that’s the whole fun of the whole thing.” Finally, they called an evening staff meeting. “It started off with us, BenandTomandI, really apologizing for kind of the double standard that we just kind of held everyone to. Just like, I’m not as present, but I’m still gonna say Why are you doing this wrong? When I’m probably doing like, 4 other things wrong. It’s really completely unfair.” So they recognized that, explained the great distraction, and the team walked down the street to see the new place. “I just could not be more excited. It was just SO awesome… I feel like everybody, all of our butchers, they’re all hungry. You don’t work with us cause you’re just like, I dunno, a normal person? Everyone wants something else so this is a really good step, whether or not they see themselves working with us for another year, or two years or three years or more than that, even another 6 months it’s like, cool.” One of their newest butchers is also working on a sandwich shop, in Manhattan. “He’s got like, a really great concept and we’ve just been spit-firing back and forth whataboutthiswhatabouthis just thinkin’ up fun shit. Fun restaurant stuff.”
The sandwich shop will be another piece of the great puzzle of running a whole animal butcher shop, just like the terrines and rillettes, the staff lunches Brent cooks from their excess. Just like he takes meat home and eats it himself (over the past 6 months, he says, he’s finally “obtained a small amount of personal life”—very treasured evenings cooking for the girlfriend he finally has time to have). “It’s the one luxury of having a butcher shop that you always have odds and ends and shit, and stuff that needs to be used, so you may as well eat it, might as well try it. Part of the whole gig is that you know, you’re using different farms, trying different stuff. How is it at this time of the year? Is this getting better? Is this getting worse? More to that point—that’s the crazy thing, is that all of this stuff is in its INFANCY. It’s wild in that the best farms that we work with haven’t been around for that long. They’re still figuring this stuff out. And all of it’s only going to get better, the more that we learn, the more that we talk to all of these farms it’s just going to get better and better, which is really exciting.
BRENT YOUNG | the-meathook.com
If you’ve been to a corporate party in the past year, you’ve likely shared space with The Bosco – a gif photo booth – and The Bosco Boys — the charismatic group of party boys manning the machine and the helping to steer the startup’s success.
WN How did you end up on this couch today?
JAKE I actually grew up with Aaron, one of the founders. I do client relations and long-term relationships and projects.
JOEY And you play music.
JAKE And music. I play the drums. That’s a common thread — we all have little things that we do.
WN Where did you go to school?
JAKE Wesleyan University.
JOEY I’m Joey, I’m from Pittsburgh. I know all these people basically from Oberlin where I went to school.
JAKE Where’d you guys go again? Kenyan? Kenyan college?
JOEY You know Lena Dunham? You heard of her?
JAKE The Ohio State University?
JOEY The Oberlin College. I thought I was going to go to grad school right away for design and then I ended up in New York becoming a male model.
JAKE A male model mind you.
JOEY Always open to new things. When this got started, I started working events, then doing project management and that led to all of the sales stuff. So now I’m one of the sales people.
JAKE Head of Sales.
JOEY Head of Sales, Joey Pope. Bookings, events, meetings, client relations — everyone kind of wears like, seven hats here.
JAKE Yeah we do a mix.
WN That’s the fun thing about startups right?
JOEY Exactly, exactly. Hashtag: startup life.
ERIK I’m Erik, I went to school with Joey. I was doing carpentry and metal working with an artist…
JOEY Living in a warehouse under the Long Island Expressway.
ERIC In a warehouse under the Long Island Expressway.
JOEY Didn’t pay any rent.
ERIC Didn’t pay any rent.
WN Wait what?
JOEY Lived a mile from the nearest subway.
ERIC It was a mile from the nearest subway. We threw great parties though. I got hit by a car.
WN Hashtag: startup life.
ERIC Hashtag: startup life. I got a fungal infection on my nuts.
JOEY Come on. OK, stop it.
ERIC What? It was startup life.
JAKE No, no, no. I’ve never had that. I work here. I’ve never had that.
ERIK After Sandy the shop got really fucked up. There was a period of time with no work and Aaron was nice enough to let me start working Bosco events. So that’s how I got here. I’ve been doing like, events as an event worker for a while, but um, I’m more recently full-time.
WN Tell me what Bosco means.
JOEY I got this guys. So, Bosco, we do event photo booths on a rental basis. We do a lot of music festivals, fashion events, corporate parties, harping on this candid fun, goofy experience that’s trending now in terms of creating content at events. We’ve always been pulled to these high-end interactive media installations so it’s something we’re trying to capitalize on. But we’ll do everything from Cindy’s Bat Mitzvah to the Lady Gaga tour, that’s how we describe it.
JAKE We figure out interesting ways to tie in technology and social media into photography.
JOEY And we’re a bunch of party boys. And people love that.
ERIK And all of that comes from Nick and Aaron, who founded the company.
JOEY We kind of associate with people that are like, kind of post-collegiate bohemian creative types that are broke.
JAKE I would never describe myself that way.
WN I’m familiar with you as a gif booth. Is that the main draw?
ERIC The company is know as the first gif booth. It’s also Joey’s model look book.
WN I like the graphic design. Is that Joey too?
ERIK No, Dennis. Dennis does all this cool shit.
DENNIS What do I do? [Dennis rolls his chair over from across the room]
JAKE Cool shit.
ERIK Everything that’s cool.
WN Why did you want to make a photo booth company?
DENNIS Um, it was something that Nick and I kind of did in college for beer money, basically. We saw a photo booth at a party one time and we’re like hey, like, we can probably make that. We’re both like, crafty and smart. When I moved here about a year and a half ago, Nick was talking to Aaron about doing a photo booth company and I was talking to another of my friends about doing a photo booth company, so we took the ground work, paved way, and it kind of turned into this.
WN Did the persona of “the Bosco Boys,” this lively effervescent group of boys as a selling point, develop on its own?
ERIK It was organic.
JAKE In Erik’s fantasy world.
ERIK It happens to be the people we hire. Really charismatic, charming…
ERIC Effervescent people. Not Jake.
JAKE I bring a different personality.
JOEY It’s a collective of people that had this trajectory that never once in their mind thought they were going to be working for a photo booth company. People on that cusp of design, fun, interesting, and cool. The lynchpin of it has been making money, but everyone wants it to be some sort of fun creative flow that people are pouring their intuition or their natural cool into.
JAKE Yeah, it comes from people with good taste trying to make a photo booth company.
ERIK You know, personally, I just wanted my mom to stop worrying about me. She sends care packages when she’s afraid.
WN You said personality is what’s driving the brand. Let’s talk like your personal inspiration: what keeps you creatively inspired?
JOEY I don’t know. For me it was strange because I was uh, I was an art student very much into understanding the parameters of where my creatively was flowing. My senior thesis was a wilderness of animal sounds and video art and a ton of mulch in a gallery space, but I didn’t necessarily see the transition of, like, how does that translate to me being in New York? The Bosco’s been a really wonderful transition to like, what I was doing just to make ends meet and also the joining of a regimented adult life and some sort of creative output.
WN Are you still doing experiential design?
JOEY Yeah. The first big thing we did was Pitchfork Music Festival where people put on headphones and listened to songs and they put their hands down in these plastic boxes that would complete a circuit and take sensory data from them. And as they’re listening to these different songs they would snap photos of themselves and it would create some sort of colorful sheen or cloud over.
JOEY It was called the aurora booth — it was kind of like a mood ring booth.
WN Who came up with that idea?
JOEY It was E Music and Mother. We do a lot with Mother. And I think the echelon we’ve like, been working within, we’ve been able to pitch some really fun ideas using the technical platforms that we have but in fun, quirky, interactive ways that allow users to experience or interact with things, whether it’s long light exposure, dance booths or whatever.
WN Where do you see Bosco five years from now?
JAKE Five years?
ERIK I don’t know if I’ll be alive in five years.
WN I hope you’re going to be alive. Don’t go back to that warehouse,
JAKE It’s not a company where you know the end point.
JAKE It’s not just like, oh in 5 years we’re gonna have a fucking office in every city in America and we’re going to be doing gif booths as much as we can you know? It’s like, such in the hands of the employees and it’s kind of, we kind of decide. “We decide” is like a little catch phrase around the office. It’s also our wifi password. And so that’s what it is, we decide we want to try something new and we do that.
WN What was the craziest call you’ve gotten?
JAKE When I first started we had three booths and I got a call from AT&T where they wanted five locations in America, 10 concerts at each location over the course of 3 months which means we would basically have had to build six more photo booths and we just thought it was a joke, and then somehow we got the deal. We built six more photo booths and then doubled overnight basically. That was pretty crazy for me.
WN You can’t have an event without a photo booth.
DENNIS It’s like, most of the content that you consume throughout the day is your friends’ tweets, your friends’ Facebook posts, and how are you going to break into that? You have to brand your friends’ Facebook posts basically, so it’s like, you have a picture of yourself that’s got a Heineken logo on it or something like that and instantly, you know, they become an advertisement to you. So that’s why this is so valuable to people.
JOEY And it’s attractive because we’re all so goddamn attractive.
JAKE Speak for yourself goddamn it.
WN If you could describe Bosco in one word what would it be?
DENNIS Joey, you said awkward?
ERIK What’s wrong with you?
DENNIS I thought you were gonna say turnt or trill or..
ERIC Joey say turnt. Bosco … you have to act turnt.
ERIK Yeah I’d say trill. No wait wait no can I take it back? I want to say Pyrex. Hashtag it, hashtag it. I’m trying to blow up. I got this new Pyrex.THE BOSCO BOYS | thebos.co
It’s just 9 a.m. but the subways and downtown sidewalks are already dotted with slender models heading for coffee, juice, or to an early hair and makeup call time. Perhaps it’s Creatures of the Wind at Chelsea’s Pace Gallery, or Richard Chai Love at Lincoln Center.
The Smile, a cafe with a reputation for good-looking clientele, and the NoHo block of Bond St between Bowery and Lafayette that it sits on, is entertaining a fashionable breakfast crowd. Inside, customers sip Plowshare espresso; outside, street-style photographers begin to linger.
It’s the second day of New York Fashion Week and the offices of modeling agency One Management, where I’ve come to meet its founder, Scott Lipps, are already buzzing a few doors down at 42 Bond.
Yesterday, the New York Times opined the question, “Is Fashion Week Near the End of The Runway?” Today though, they’re lauding the quirks of it-girl models, and featuring a photo – front and center – of One Management’s rainbow-haired Chloe Norgaard. Scott holds a copy of the paper, and as I shake his hand he beams like a proud parent.
For the last 12 years Scott’s been running One Management, the agency he founded after stints at Next and Karin, and a move from Los Angeles back to his home state of New York. “It’s sort of like dog years in fashion,” he explains, “so 12 times 7, that’s about a hundred or something like that, roughly. I’ve had it for maybe a hundred years.”
One launched with a supermodel reputation, repping the likes of Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and Iman. Now there’s One, “the high fashion division,” ONE.1, “which is more about Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated,” a music division to “manage bands and… do branding… a celebrity PR division… a men’s division.”
“[During Fashion Week] I sleep with a BlackBerry next to my head,” says Lipps. “So from about two in the morning to about seven in the morning, every half an hour or so I’m looking at it, waiting for some email to come in about an exclusive for a girl in Europe, or someone not getting the girl they wanted for a show. There’s a lot we do here, it’s a lot of hard work, hence why I don’t sleep at night.”
Like most serial entrepreneurs, Scott’s a busy man getting busier. The current iteration of his life, at an intersection of fashion, celebrity, and music is “a lot of drama,” but it isn’t new. “It’s what I know it to be after doing 20 years.”
At One’s 10 year anniversary party Scott was able to add Professional Musician back to his job title after joining Courtney Love on stage to play drums with her band Hole during the party’s performance. In the 1980s Scott was the drummer in Los Angeles hair metal band Black Cherry. “It went really well,” Scott recalls, “and I’ve kind of been in the band ever since.” A mutually beneficial performance, Courtney is now repped under One’s celebrity division.
His life, a sequence of varied events each in its own category of glamor, Scott seems the type of person to have been predisposed for social media fame. “Last night I had five events to go to,” Scott tells me. “Tonight I have six.” In 2010 when Tumblr moved his photo blog, Pop Lipps, to its list of fashion blogs to follow alongside the likes of Terry Richardson’s Diary, Vogue, and W magazine he developed a following some several hundred thousand strong.
“[Nowadays] you are your brand. You become your brand, you help your brand. It’s all interchangeable, and ultimately… the more stuff that raises the visibility of myself, people know that it’s synonymous with the company.”
On October 1st “Pop Lipps,” with a portrait of quirky it-girl Chloe on the cover and a forward by Ms. Love, will hit the shelves in book form. A collection of Scott’s photographs with “only four pages of writing,” the book is “for anyone who likes pop culture — especially fashion and New York life and music and entertainment because,” says Lipps, “that’s essentially what I think my life is.”
SCOTT LIPPS | poplipps.com
When you sit down with Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, the problem is not engaging in conversation. He runs a nightlife social media site, his contacts and hospitality know-how caught restauranteur David Rabin’s attention, and he’s friends with the likes of Daphne Oz, Nell Diamond and Prabal Gurung (as many party pictures will attest).
The problem is not finding things to talk about. If discussing the city’s best hotels and restaurants don’t interest you, Kyle went to Princeton for African American Studies, because he knew he’d work in hospitality, and thus decided to explore another interest in the meantime.
The problem, of course, is deciding where to start.
Kyle’s current focus is growing the nightlife site Host Committee, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s start at the bar at Cole’s Greenwich Village—his most tangible venture—just before Kyle, one of the restaurant’s four partners, arrives for the evening.
The big bar windows at Cole’s, a flatiron-shaped restaurant wedged between Greenwich Avenue and West 13th Street, look out at a perfect spring evening; at 7:45pm it’s an easy 70 degrees and people are energized by the respite from winter’s bite. Stepping inside, you wouldn’t know the place is new. The bartender isn’t 22 and tattooed; he looks like he could actually teach you a lot (the place is known for its martinis). The décor features old tiles and vintage bottles, but the bottles are tucked out of the way—a little nod to the past, not a trendy installation. It’s busy on a Thursday evening, but not packed (ages vary, as does attire—at the bar a young woman in torn jeans, a lace-up leather jacket and spike heels waits next to a trio of “business casual” friends, the girl in a salmon pink shift dress, and guys in chinos). It’s not absurdly dark or kitschy-bright. The staff—also diverse in age, gender and race—is attentive, not obtrusive. The cocktails are elevated, but the beers aren’t too expensive. People are conversing, not yelling. The music is neither generic nor odd… everything just exists, pleasing when you care to notice it. A woman jaywalks across busy Greenwich Avenue, rushes in, perches on a barstool between the two men she’s meeting and, suddenly, her whole body warms and relaxes.
Kyle rushes in too. He’s late, but not inconsiderately so and, coming into the bar room, says he’s relieved there isn’t a “throng” of people, as there often is, with unpredictable timing. Nonetheless he suggests moving somewhere a bit quieter, consults the hostess, then leads the way to a corner banquette in the fabric-walled main dining room.
Kyle’s strongest childhood memories are of lobbies in public places, and beautiful restaurants. He was raised by a single mom in Connecticut and on Long Island, but she took him and his sister traveling, where he built all of those place-memories. He loved it, though he was intensely critical of spaces from a very young age; at 10 years old he nearly cried on account of where they were seated in a Florida restaurant. He wanted to be on the other side of the room, didn’t like the neighbors, and didn’t want to be near the kitchen. Today, when he enters a hotel room he notices where the outlets are placed, and if a clock has been left blinking. “Always obsessed,” he says, and it’s not an apology.
By high school, he knew he’d go into hospitality. In his first year at Princeton, Kyle begged his friends to exhaust their contacts until he landed an internship with Andre Balazs, then stayed on part-time developing The Standard New York. After graduation he worked for a real estate development firm in Milan, then as a consultant until two opportunities emerged: Host Committee and Cole’s. Each was a more-than-full-time, start-up job. He took them both.
Hospitality in New York is a strange routine. Dinner parties can’t exist in closet-sized apartments, so friends dine out. If any venue, be it a restaurant, bar or club, becomes popular enough, you can’t get in. Add to this the rapid move away from face-to-face communication. The landscape is not exactly inviting.
Enter Host Committee. The premise is that you gather a few co-hosts, invite your friends online, and once they’ve bought a ticket, they can invite friends too. Host Committee provides a venue, DJ, photographer, and hour of open bar. Sounds pretty straightforward. But Kyle, Director of Business Development, declares that it’s “disruptive in a way that everybody wins.”
Luckily, he’s good at explaining what that means. A successful New York club is making money in a 12-4am window, and getting a reputation by turning a lot of people away. Host Committee gets clubs to open twice in a night—their normal time, and earlier in the evening for a private party where people who otherwise wouldn’t get in (or wouldn’t bother trying) can use the space—and spend. But Host Committee parties aren’t just an excuse to go to a big name venue—Kyle insists that the social media element (connections are made via Facebook) is crucial in establishing a mix of semi-connected, trusting people. That makes for a superior evening than your average night at a club. With one rhetorical question, he explains the difference: “Why do people sleep together at a wedding?”
The other opportunity was Cole’s. It started with a meeting between Kyle and David Rabin of the Lamb’s Club. Kyle was consulting at the time, or, as he puts it, being paid to give away his ideas and contacts. It was weird, he says, especially as he began searching his Soho neighborhood for a space to do his own restaurant. Meanwhile, Rabin was hoping to get younger blood up to his midtown space, and launch a new restaurant downtown—Lyon in Greenwich Village had just closed, and Rabin was asked to run the new incarnation.
What was intended as a consultation led Kyle was invited to become a partner. “I was so ready to do it,” he says, and he calls Rabin ideal to work with. He’s run clubs and restaurants and “our friends just get along,” Kyle says. And it’s been invaluable to connect with Rabin’s network—established, experienced. “Basically my friends, but a generation older.”
It’s appropriate that two generations would feel comfortable at Cole’s on any given evening. The goal was to make a restaurant that was both hip-and-desirable and friend-of-the-neighborhood. This sounds impossible, until you see it in action. Kyle’s first role was spearheading the design—using his nitpicky eye to adjust the lighting and tableware and perfect the adjustments to the old Lyon’s décor to make a warm, welcoming place. Then he used his connections to generate buzz and start hosting fashion week parties when the restaurant opened in February 2013. Now that they’ve settled in, the four partners share the duties of greeting VIPs, managing table arrangements, and making sure that someone who lives on the block always gets a table.
Sitting with Kyle in the cozy main dining room (that’s “cozy, not claustrophobic,” he fairly points out), he faces the other diners, and surveys. Rabin stops by and teases him like an older brother. Kyle notes how many of the diners are regulars, and explains the origins of the art on the walls (ACRIA, an AIDS non-profit). He points out strengths, but is quite honest about the process. There’s the question of name, for example: Cole’s Greenwich Village. What was once “Greenwich Village” has since been subdivided beyond comprehension. Welcoming locals, they included that name from when the area really felt like a neighborhood. So who is Cole? Well, it’s partner Larry Poston’s grandfather’s name. It is. Really. That’s just not who it was named after.
“It was like picking a name for a child,” Kyle admits. He pored over baby books for something that conveyed American and classic, but a little heightened. So many had already been taken by New York restaurants, past and present. Finally they settled on Cole, then found out it was the name of Larry’s grandfather. Which was just as well—makes for a better story to tell press.
So Host Committee, Cole’s—it’s a good thing he works in hospitality, or Kyle would never have a night out in his ‘20s. An average day is a breakfast meeting with a venue owner or operator to discuss Host Committee. Next up, a lunch meeting with another vendor, or with the Cole’s PR team, or a press engagement. In the afternoon, Kyle heads to the Host Committee office to address anything “internal facing” and then either stops at home, or walks a well-worn path straight to Cole’s to check the reservation list, and arrange seating by who-knows-who in the room. Sometimes he’ll join a table of friends. After that, he should go home (“What my mother would say”) but Host Committee runs 5 or 6 parties on any given night, and it’s too tempting not to see if the events are going smoothly. He supposes other people go home after work and stay up late watching TV, and says what he’s doing isn’t so different. “It’s like entertainment, just live.”
When faced with the choice of taking both Host Committee and Cole’s, he worried that in just working at a restaurant, he’d sleep til 2pm. That seems unlikely from Kyle. Tonight he does admit he’s tired, but still talks excitedly about expanding Host Committee to other cities, and how great it would be for them to open their own club. And there’s no doubt that when it does, he’ll be right there, noticing the details, even after a long day—and night.
Today he ran home for a shower between the office and at Cole’s. He didn’t really have time, but he’s about to head to a friend’s birthday party. He doesn’t feel up for it, sipping his Diet Coke at a comfortable, candlelit table. But tired or not, one gets the sense that when he arrives, he’ll guarantee that a great time is had by all.
KYLE HOTCHKISS CARONE | kylehotchkisscarone.com
When a video artist can direct for Bjork and Sigur Ros, make commercials for Google and Lexus, hold meetings with JJ Abrams, win a Webby with the Museum of Contemporary Art, and still get confused for a YouTube musician boasting the same first and last names, you’re reminded the internet can be a really weird place.
Like a lot of innovative thinkers, Andrew Thomas Huang’s creativity operates on the edge of a few categories. On paper he goes by his full name to help differentiate from said internet musician. When it comes to work, Andrew’s aesthetic has carved him a niche uniquely his own as a filmmaker and artist. He is perhaps most often recognized for his use of tactile and organic inspired CGI as a singular part to the whole of his mixed media creations. “Definitely more a visual director as opposed to an actor’s theater director. I feel like my fine art education sort of bubbles to the surface.”
In 2007, Andrew caught his first wave of success with his animated art film “Doll Face,” which clocked in over 5 million views and earned him a Best of YouTube nomination. He was about to graduate from the University of Southern California with a degree in Fine Art, but after a few visual effects internships at Sony and similar studios disillusioned him a bit, he decided he wanted to “take ownership” over his VFX work. “I knew my gateway into film was through art.”
“’Doll Face’ was “very dark and shiny and sleek and metallic,” a sort of VFX capstone for the epoch of a junior high kid who “sat at home making dorky visual effects stuff.” Nowadays, “Doll Face” and all of Andrew’s initial post-collegiate work is missing from reel. “It’s not that I’m not proud of it” he says, “I just don’t think it’s who I am anymore. I’ve been able to come out with a much more concise statement recently.”
The foundation of Andrew’s second wave of momentum and critical success is in his most recent art film, “Solipsist.” “’Solipsist’ was a reaction [to my past work]. I wanted to create something organic, but not explicitly alien—I didn’t want it to feel so literal, you know? I didn’t want to make, like, latex alien parts or anything.”
"Solipsist" tells the not-so-narrative story of heady, psychological, philosophical, and psychedelic convergence from the perspectives of three other-worldly creatures. It’s a master work and perfect marriage of practical and special effects works. It collects Vimeo and YouTube comments like “I still can’t believe this exists.”
It’s safe to say there aren’t a lot of filmmakers with Andrew’s creative abilities and sensibilities—Chris Cunningham, Guillermo del Toro. Andrew understands the importance of honesty in visual art, even when creating fiction. It’s an understanding that comes partly from his exposure growing up on the outskirts of Hollywood, partly from his commanding knowledge of polished visual effects, and partly from growing up in an era where he’s been able to toil away in front of a computer screen for hours on end. “I’m honestly influenced by movies and Hollywood and I think that’s OK …to look that polished. It’s OK to use the tools to make the same kind of high-end Hollywood effects on art films to explore something really personal. …It’s always hard to place oneself in a historical context [in LA]” but “the space and the constant good weather I think allows you to fill that space with your craft and …affords you the mental freedom to make what you want to make.”
Manual or automatic?
Apartment or house?
Favorite drive thru?
First thing you ate or drank this morning?
Last thing you drank last night?
Vanilla almond milk.
Favorite place to drive?
Umm. Hmm. Favorite place to drive? I would say the 10 Freeway on the 4th of July.
What do you listen to in the car?
Oh gosh. CDs.
Malibu or Hollywood?
Big Bear or Joshua Tree?
Vegas or Tijuana?
Favorite place in LA?
Hmm. Favorite place in LA? Little Tokyo.
Favorite place to shop?
Oh god I haven’t done shopping in so long. Little Tokyo.
Where were you born?
How long have you lived in California?
Oh god, my whole life. I can’t wait to get out. I’m thinking about maybe moving to London. We’ll see. I say it but, I’ll see if I do it.
Thing you love about California?
Hmm that’s a good one. Thing I love about California? I think it’s the light.
Thing you hate about California?
Oooh so much to hate too. I don’t know though. What’s the thing I hate about California? Uh. Oh god I’m sorry I’m overthinking it. I guess just traffic, it’s kind of a bland answer.
What’s your favorite place on the Earth?
Oooh I have to go through my mental catalog. Favorite place on Earth? I would just say the California coast in general. I feel like it’s, like, the best. Yea the whole stretch. Taking the 101 up to San Francisco’s, like, awesome.
Place you last traveled to?
I last traveled to Brooklyn.
Where do you consider ‘home’?
What’s a place that makes you feel calm?
Place that makes me feel calm? Umm I would say, uh, my shower.
What’s a place where you always feel excited?
New York City.
Best quality in a friend?
Your idea of misery?
Not being awake.
How do you start your weekend?
Checking my email. I keep my phone near my bed and it’s terrible. I roll over and I check my Gmail, it’s like the worst habit. It’s the worst. Like, it should definitely be in another room. I feel like it messes up the vibe of your day.
Fill in the blank: LA is _________
LA is sifting, like sifting sand.
ANDREW THOMAS HUANG | andrewthomashuang.com