Flannery Klette-Kolton is Manhattan born and raised, and lives in Alphabet city. She is a chef and co owner of Big LITTLE Get Together which is an international culinary creative company and has provided private dinner parties and brand experiences for the last 10 years.
Can you tell me why you started cooking?
I grew up cooking with my family and we cooked a lot together. Full disclosure, I battled with an eating disorder as a teenager and I became obsessive about food and watched the food network. I absorbed all this information about food, and then when I got past that I wanted to do good with that information and make up for lost time.
How do you think food has changed in New York in recent years?
The amount of ingredients and diversity of ingredients that are available now is huge. Also there has been an increased awareness and curiosity about multi cultural cuisines. Every culture lives and exists here in New York and one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with a culture is through food. Everything is accessible if you are curious. New York is full of energy which is inspiring but also very competitive.
You talk very passionately about food, do you eat junk food?
No I don't. Probably because I read labels and I know what goes into it. I love the Michael Pollan quote "eat anything. Eat anything you want, but make it from start to finish". That's what eating well is about for me. Eat a whole pie if you want too, but make it from scratch first. Food is fuel, and what you put into your body is what you are going to get out. Producing food for a mass market means you have to cut corners, but companies and brand strategies are much more focused on using organic produce and being eco friendly which is great.
Where do you take inspiration from when you are cooking?
Inspiration always starts with what's in season. I always want to use the best of what's available. A plum in January is not going to taste like a plum in July, it's not going to be as good as it could be. Texture and color are also key components in inspiring ideas. Food is very sensory and emotive to me.
Which sense is the most important to you when you are cooking? Like, if a food was really ugly but tasted great would you still serve it?
That would be such a personal struggle. I think for me, the most important sense in cooking, for actual technique, is sight. I use my eyes to see how much I am using, and I can see a lot of what is happening before I taste it. That said of course if I was blind then smell would be most important. Smell is a close second anyway because you can smell when things are ready. Lauren (Gerrie, business partner) and I constantly joke and use the expression "you eat with your eyes first" because it's true. Taste is paramount but you experience food with other senses before it is in your mouth.
To see and smell and taste - that's erotic to me. I know the word erotic has a strong sexual connotation, but I mean it in a passionate fulfilling and reactionary way
You strike me as being a very sensual person.
I sure am. Living in your senses is what it means to be 3 dimensional to me. To see and smell and taste, that's erotic to me. I know the word erotic has a strong sexual connotation, but I mean it in a passionate fulfilling and reactionary way.
Who inspires you in the food world? There is an age old belief that no one cooks a better roast dinner than your own mother. I don't attest to this.
I look up to a lot of people and things. I like following chefs on Instagram. There is an amazing food photographer called Signe Birck whose pictures always inspire me. She works with a whole bunch of different chefs which is interesting. But I think I get inspire most often by Lauren, we collaborate constantly on menus and are going back and forth on things, and we have to kind of inspire each other otherwise it won't work.
Tell me about the ET themed pop up restaurant you guys did.
We chose ET because it's such a fucking great movie first of all. Made the year I was born, it's such a nostalgic movie. Pizza is a big component of the opening scenes of the movie, and we did a pop collaboration with a pizza place called Scarr's that has a very nostalgic 70s/80s decor and sells classic New York style slice pizza. Very traditional Italian-American. They use organic products and biodegradable platewear, and I like to support that. Every single dining experience you have is themed, you just don't think about it or realize it. The menu, the service and the decor all have to work together in this harmony. It should be a very sensory experience. The ET theme dinner we had was an exaggerated idea of this and became kitsch and fun. Pizza slices were inspired by the spaceship forest landing, made with forest mushrooms and smoked chillies and pine. They drink a lot of soda in the movie so we did Coca Cola braised pork with peaches and basil. For dessert we did Reece's Pieces inspired peanut butter cake with hard shell, and then a trick or treat basket with Reece's candy in it. We had a beer can chicken salad which referenced when Elliott gets drunk and a solar system salad. It was fun.
There's something about a lightness of touch and attention to detail you just described that feels very feminine to me.
For better or worse, women are often described as being sensitive. And if you interpret that in a positive way, it makes sense. When younger your period starts at 11 years of age you become very aware of your body and your emotions. It's an example of managing senses again I guess.
I think people often think about male counterparts immediately when you think of the culinary world which is inaccurate isn't it?
It’s weird because most people associate eating with women because they grew up having food cooked by their mum. But people associate restaurants and dining out with men, because the chef field is male dominated.
I think that has a lot to do with stereotypes though, like in TV it's always male chefs that are swearing and screaming in those reality cooking shows.
Well I wish someone would give me a show because I would swear the hell out of it!! A lot of women on food tv shows in America aren't chefs either. They are cooks. That double standard is annoying. Women are generally more chill in the kitchen I think. Men seem to be the ones getting their panties in a twist.
I guess you have to have a broad skills set to do what you do, taking into account all the different areas of your expertise.
First and foremost, you need patience. There are plenty of people that have specific dietary requirements, and you have to be patient and listen and accommodate those requests. Based on what Lauren and I do, when we are doing a lot of private dinners, working intimately with people, having social skills is really important. We both started front of house, cocktailing and serving, hostessing. That gave us an awareness of customer service.
Can you give me a simple five ingredient recipe a novice could make?
This is such a throwback dish, but baked eggs are no fail. I love eggs in general and I make them all the time. For baked eggs you need butter, cream, eggs and cheese. Bake them in the baking dish you want to eat them out of, cook the cream and butter for a minute and then crack the eggs into it, then put it under the grill for four minutes. Sprinkle cheese on, grill again and serve with greens.
If you were to host a hypothetical diner party for 4 people dead or alive who would you invite?
It would be a lady affair. Stevie Nicks because she is my spirit animal, she could bring a nice witchy appetizer to start out. Entree would be by Julia Child (America chef/ TV personality). She is a legend in food authority, a real character and very entertaining. My business partner Lauren could bring sweet, because her desserts are my favorite. And Lindsay Lohan can bring the Kambucha or Tequila.
Can we round this up by talking about your pole dancing please?
One of the reasons I don't work in a restaurant kitchen, is that I don't want to do the same thing everyday and I want to have a life. I'm good at exploring hobbies in my spare time. I have been pole dancing for seven years, and for the past year I have been performing publicly.
Could you do a showgirls themed pop up restaurant?
That's an idea that's already been discussed actually. Watch this space.