Chef-owner Zak Pelaccio poses at Fatty 'Cue in New York, U.S., on Oct. 17, 2011. The restaurant is located at 50 Carmine Street in the West Village. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Photo by: Paul Goguen

Paul Goguen

Chef and restaurateur Zakary Pelaccio once confessed to a friend: “I never want to cook the same thing twice.” This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his inventive, ever-changing cuisine. Drawing on a globe-spanning array of influences, Pelaccio’s food defies categorization.

Pelaccio first turned heads in 2005 when he opened Fatty Crab, his Malaysian-inspired West Village hot spot. Why Malaysia? He’d gone there for a visit, stayed for a year and half, and “fell hard for lip-scalding chiles, unbelievably funky fermented condiments, and freshly made coconut milk”—ingredients that were given star turns in dishes like short rib rendang and his signature chili crab. After over a decade of thrilling critics and customers alike, Fatty Crab closed its doors in 2016.

By 2011, Pelaccio's curiosity and ambitions were driving him on to the next big thing. He and his wife, chef and alchemist Jori Jayne Emde, swapped New York City apartment living for a barn in the woods upstate. Along with Jori, partner Patrick Milling Smith, and co-chef Kevin Pomplun, Pelaccio developed Fish & Game, a restaurant housed in a renovated 19th-century building in Hudson, New York. The uber-local ingredients—including produce and animals raised on the restaurateurs' own land—and smart blend of Americana with international technique (he makes kimchi out of rhubarb) have earned Pelaccio a collection of laurels: Fish & Game has been a James Beard Foundation Awards finalist every year since it opened, and Pelaccio won James Beard's Best Chef in the Northeast in 2016.

Pelaccio's signature? Whether it's his roast turkey with a spicy twist or Swiss chard with (surprise!) clams, expect strong, surprising flavors that creatively complement good ingredients without overwhelming them.

Zakary Restaurant:

Zakary's Book: