Food - Jarrett Stieber talks yakitori

The Eat Me Speak Me chef on his monthly Eat Me Yakitori pop-up

At the end of the evening, smoke still heavy in the lamb and peach-scented air, my main thought was, "What took me so long to try this out?" Actually, I take that back, my main thought was a jumble of that and how cool it was to see a farmer sharing his bounty, an innovative chef putting his creativity to work, and a community of enthusiastic eaters gathering for a monthly dinner in a residence off Arizona Avenue.

Eat Me Yakitori was the evening's event. The chef: Jarrett Stieber. The farmer: Darby Farms' Daniel Dover. Karl Injex of Soundtable was there lending a hand. Fellow supper clubber Ciera Tavana (of Sofia XIV) and DJ/art director Alex Morgan played host. In addition to Stieber's weekly Eat Me Speak Me stint at Gato Friday through Sunday, 7-11 p.m., the young chef hosts roughly-monthly yakitori dinners featuring lots (and lots) of Japanese-style grilled and skewered meats. The dinners typically run $60-$65 per person with plentiful wine and cocktails included. Tickets to these tend to sell out fast. Reserve your spot as new events are released at www.eatmeyakitori.com. The next dinner is scheduled for Thurs., Sept. 17.

We caught up with Stieber to get more intel on the stick-y pop-ups, as well as his plans for the future.

How did Eat Me Yakitori start?

My friend Alex Morgan and I started Eat Me Yakitori as a supper club last fall. Previously, we had been running a supper club out of his studio that served more formal, coursed out meals, but we got tired of the formality, the logistics of trying to plate that much food without comprising the quality... So we started trying to think of a new thing to do that would be more unique and stimulating, and would allow us to host more guests. I had joked about wanting to use sideways cinderblocks and Japanese charcoal to grill stuff, so we decided to turn that into reality and go for it. We built our grill with broken-apart Japanese fish grilling baskets, and we run it on real binchotan, the high quality charcoal from Japan.

This last Yakitori was a bit of a special occasion, with a summer lamb and peach theme?

Normally, we grill a variety of locally-sourced meats, fish and vegetables, but this latest Yakitori fused together an event we did last summer called Eat Me Peach Me, celebrating the end-of-the-season Pearson peaches, and an event Karl and Alex did with Ciera called Lamb Jam.

And you actually went out to Darby Farms for this one to select the lamb?

We went to Darby Farms ... I had worked with Daniel Dover's chicken when I was the butcher and charcutier at Empire State South, and we've exclusively served his chicken ever since at Eat Me Speak Me. He raises lamb, pigs, cows, ducks, etc., so I reached out to him about a lamb, and he offered for us to come slaughter our own since it was for a private event. The experience was intense and visceral, but such a humbling process. I work my ass off to make strong connections with the farmers I source from, so it was extremely gratifying to connect to the lamb from start to finish and do her meat justice.

You served a ton of different skewers. Tell us about the prep work behind all this.

My goal is to have service be so fun for people that they don't notice how hard I worked to make it happen. I butchered the lamb myself, ground the meat for meatballs and blood sausage, sliced cuts to marinate and grill, same with the loins, etc. For each yakitori, I generally buy 1,000 skewers, and they almost all get used. I have to start over a week ahead on ordering because everything is locally sourced... I skewer everything and make a table spread of condiments for dipping.

And this is on top of your other Eat Me Speak Me work?

Operating EMSM alone takes seven days of work most weeks, since I do all of the sourcing, menu planning, prepping, accounting, social media management/ marketing, and secretarial work, which keeps me plenty busy. I'm actively trying to open my own brick and mortar concept ... the process is already well underway, and at this point, we are working to find potential investors for the restaurant (if anyone reading this is interested, wink wink, send me an e-mail!). My plans are to continue running Eat Me Speak Me out of Gato until I can open my own place, as well as doing Eat Me Yakitori once a month or so.

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