Chef Elise Kornack is a veteran of some of New York’s most acclaimed kitchens, including April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit (now helmed by Emma Bengtsson. But after working with some very big names, Kornack decided to go small. In 2013, she and Anna Hieronimus (wife and sole supporting staff) opened Take Root, a 750-square foot, 12-seat tasting menu destination in Brooklyn. Their fare reflected their philosophy: mindful dining using local ingredients, careful preparation, but without pretension (the tasting menu cost $125, a steal compared to New York standards). Out of her galley-sized kitchen, Kornack plated far-reaching flavors, from sweetbreads with shaved squash to chocolate mousse with sour honey powder. In return, critics showered her with praise: Kornack landed on Forbes Magazine’s and Zagat’s “30 Under 30” lists; was a “James Beard Rising Star Chef” semifinalist for the last three years running; and saw Take Root earn a Michelin star.
But even the brightest stars can burn out (and singe a chef’s sanity)—which is why Kornack decided to close the restaurant before that happened, ending on a high note: “When you feel like you’re doing your best, when your space looks the best, and your food tastes the best, that’s when you should stop.” She and her wife are now taking root in richer soil: the Catskills, where she hinted to us, she’s partnering with a nearby farm to open a farm-to-table restaurant.
The recipes Kornack made for Panna are fresh yet familiar. They include some childhood favorites like Beef Braciole, her grandmother’s specialty, stuffed with breadcrumbs and braised with tomato-wine sauce. You’ll melt for her Cinnamon Semifreddo, an Italian frozen custard, made sans ice cream machine and topped with bourbon-macerated figs; the silkiest sunchoke soup, drizzled with aromatic ginger oil; a giant, crispy rice pancake served with greens and a fried egg; charred cabbage wedges with almond vinaigrette; and parsnip cake (similar to carrot cake) brightened with apple compote. Luckily, you don’t have to churn it out all at once for a multi-course tasting menu like Kornack can—but you should take her skills to your kitchen, and enjoy each stunning dish, bite by bite.