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Crispy Lamb, Lentils & Labneh with Rob

No, it's not Taylor from Hanson, it's our Jersey Boy, Rob!

A few weeks ago, while darting from home to the office, I spied Robert and his friend outside my local, facve restaurant, Colonie. And even though I was in a mad rush—latte in hand, phone in the other, headphones flailing—I couldn’t help but think to myself, Who IS that pretty boy over there in a chef’s get-up? A woman’s Male Monday work is truly never done! So I did what every normal, blogger would do—this one with a slight penchant for stalking—and I e-mailed the restaurant to find out his name. A few e-mails back a forth, as well as some casual “drop-ins” to the restaurant and I found myself in Rob’s kitchen. So what did we (he) make? A little lamb with lentils and labneh as well as some chocolate cakes for dessert (more on that later, goodbye diet)—this guy not only has some serious Hanson genes but he can also REALLY cook. Bon appetit, indeed!

Ok let’s start with the stats: Age, star sign hometown and occupation:
27, Gemini, Stone Harbor NJ, sous chef at Colonie.

Most importantly what are you cooking? Is cooking your number one passion?
Lamb and lentil salad with shaved raw and pickled carrots and radishes, with a fresh herb, burnt lemon, and cumin vinaigrette. Served with a side of labneh. As well as individual chocolate cakes to finish from a recipe that I picked up during my time in France. I wouldn’t say that cooking is my number one passion, but I am very passionate about food—be that cooking, eating, buying, or growing it. The sharing of food between friends, family, and loved ones creates powerful connections.

Insert one big sigh hereOh, and speaking of passion are you single?
No, I’m taken.

Boring! OK. Let’s get back to that later. How and why did you get into it?
Food always played an important role in my family growing up. My mom and nana kept gardens that we would help tend to, and my brother, sister, and I would get so excited when things started to sprout. One of my first jobs during the summer was making ice cream. After college it was more of a hobby, until one day I woke up, decided to move to France, went to culinary school and haven’t looked back. Now I’m the sous chef at Colonie, the best restaurant in Brooklyn Heights!

Oooh and you have long hair, that’s awesome, hair routine?
Not much, just wash it

Let’s go deep for a second. What’s most important to you?
Family, friends, and a bottle of wine.

Weirdest thing you’ve ever done?
I’ve done some weird things, but I’m not going to disclose them here.

On a normal weekend in the city how do you peace out?
I usually hop on my bike and check out a new neighborhood that I haven’t explored yet. Right now, I’m wet for Gowanus.

What’s the biggest difference between you now versus five years ago?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled and lived abroad, which has given me a great appreciation for cultures other than my own.

What are you currently obsessed with?
Smoking foods. Right now, I’m playing with smoked ricotta.

We want to know more! And what are you currently reading?
The Billionaire’s Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace. The true story of a 1787 bottle of Bordeaux that’s traveled all over Europe and was once in the possession of Thomas Jefferson.

Quote you live by?
“I’m a great believer in luck, the harder I work, the more luck I have.”—Thomas Jefferson
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”—Teddy Roosevelt

OK, back to the girl stuff: What’s the first thing you notice about a girl:
A great smile, her scent and chemistry is key

And the most romantic thing you’ve done:
I was waiting for my girlfriend at JFK after she’d been away for almost a month. I gave my phone to a stranger and asked him to photograph our embrace when she walked through the gates and saw each other again. She had no idea!

Isn’t that a scene in Love Actually?! Nice one Robert. Who was your first crush?
One of my older sister’s friends in high school

OK we get the picture—you’re pretty damn lovely, now food—fave meal?
Bottle of rose, wedge of good cheese, and a freshly baked baguette

And fave dessert?
Ice cream

Fave drink?
I’m on a Negroni kick right now… must be the warm weather.

Rob’s Lamb Salad

250grams ground lamb
1 shallot, diced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
10 mint leaves
10 cilantro leaves
1 carrot – shaved, or cut thinly
2 radishes – shaved or cut thinly
1 chili – diced (i prefer the red thai chilis)

100 grams labneh, strained greek style yogurt
2 oz lemon juice (from one lemon that has been grilled)
3 oz olive oil
Small piece of pecorino cheese

1. In a pan toast seeds and crush them in a spice grinder—or use pre ground spices—drizzle with olive oil and add lamb.
2. Cook over medium heat, add shallots and until lamb is rendered and crispy. Season with salt and with some of the cumin and coriander.
3. In a small bowl, combine grilled lemon juice and olive oil.
4. Dress the vegetables (carrots, radish, herbs, chili) with the grilled lemon vinaigrette, season with the remaining spices.
5. On the plate, place a spoonful of the labneh. Add lamb and top with the carrot/radish salad.
6. Finish the dish with a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous grating of pecorino cheese.

Photography by Noa Griffel

Stick around for dessert! Thanks Robert! Pippa@sousstyle.com