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A Chef’s Journey From Greenmarket to Goulash
Spend the day with Wolfgang Ban, executive chef at Hancock St. In New York City by our friends at FOUND NY
This week our friends at FOUND NY — a twice-weekly newsletter for people with good taste in and around New York City — spoke with Wolfgang Ban, executive chef at Hancock St. about shopping for dinner service, his lunch plans, and other Wednesday activities. Hancock St. is part of Mercer Street Hospitality, whose founder, John McDonald, is also the founder of Broken Palate. Subscribe to FOUND here.
WOLFGANG BAN, executive chef, Hancock St
Neighborhood you work in: Greenwich Village
FOUND NY: It’s Wednesday morning, where are you working?
Wolfgang Ban: My day often begins at the Union Square Greenmarket. Before I head into the kitchen, I browse the local produce, with eyes out for fresh ingredients that inspire our evolving menu. Recently, my favorite finds have been French tarragon for our lobster linguini and Caraflex cabbage, which we chop, char over an open flame, and serve alongside seared halibut in a clam-chive emulsion.
FNY: What’s the Wednesday morning scene at your workplace?
WB: Once I'm onsite with my team, they become my focus. I’ll discuss the day's demands with my sous chef and observe the progress of our prep kitchen. We’re always training our staff and expanding their technical knowledge as our menu transforms from the old to the new.
There are certain daily responsibilities I choose to retain: I carve out time to roll out and cut our in-house linguini to length myself. There’s nothing like the meditative concentration it takes to make pasta by hand. In the frenzy of a busy kitchen, it's quite therapeutic.
FNY: What’s on the agenda for today?
WB: Menus, menus, and more menu development. I’ve spent the past few months collaborating with my team to move Hancock St's formerly American menu in a Central European direction that ties in closely with my own Austrian roots — things like schnitzel, spaetzle, and strudel. I’m also working on specials for Halloween. Our patio is a primetime viewing for the Village festivities.
FNY: What’s for lunch?
WB: Something close to my home and my heart: Hungarian beef goulash with short ribs. Traditionally, goulash originated in Hungary as a soup made by shepherds with calf meat gifted to them by landowners. They cubed and then braised the meat for hours in copper pots with potatoes, onions, paprika, and whatever else they could gather from the fields. The Austrian take is more of a hearty stew. I make it in the restaurant for my team. It's my grandma's recipe. When we go out, we visit Cafe Katja or Pastis.
FNY: Any plans tonight?
WB: I like to see where the night will take me. Maybe we’ll start at the bar of Koloman for some wines and great food from chef Markus [Glocker] and then continue with some great cocktails at DOM. There’s also no shortage of options in this neighborhood — maybe a stop at Raoul's or the sushi bar at Lure Fishbar because they stay open a bit later.