Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky has gone so far as to trademark the cuisine at Bear as New European, but after spending some time with her and her brother Sasha I can see whya a mutual friend characterizes it as “deeply personal.” It draws as much on her Ukrainian heritage and her Midwestern childhood as it does New york City itself. Pogrebinsky was kind enough to take time out out from her Long Island City kitchen to answer Seven Questions.
Talk to me about Chopped. What was it like?
I cooked in all three rounds, I got to dessert and the judges thought my Russian cookies and tea were not sweet enough. Ironically I serve the exact same dessert at Bear and it sells out, so what do they know. But I had a lot of fun being on the show and competing and representing not only New York city, but also Queens and of course, Bear. People recognize me on the street and say, “You should’ve won.” People come from around the country to eat at Bear just because they saw me on the show.
Where did you learn to use chopsticks?
Nowhere. I still struggle.
What’s your favorite way to eat bone marrow?
The old school way, roasted and spread on country toast. with a side of pickled vegetables or sauerkraut.
Where do you like to eat on your days off? What are some of your favorite spots in Queens?
On my one day off I like to bum on my couch mostly but if I do go out it’s for ethnic food, or something simple like really good tacos, I like El Ray on Astoria Blvd., I like to try different spots every time. But mostly I like to either cook at home or go to a friend’s house and they cook.
How about markets? Are there any “only in Queens” type purveyors or producers you use at Bear?
Parisi Bros. Bakery , I love their pumpernickel loaf and their cannoli. Euro Market has some interesting cured and smoked meats. The meat markets like K & T and others around Astoria that have crazy stuff like hearts, brains, tongue, whole goat and lamb. I know I can always get something weird to experiment with.
What’s in your fridge at home?
Cornelian cherry preserves, pickled ginger, white soybean paste, farmer’s cheese, Tapatio hot sauce, Frank’s hot sauce, Sriracha, recaito, cilantro, kimchi, Russian beet horseradish, and Jarritos Grapefruit Soda.
What do you like to eat for breakfast?
Liverwurst on a toasted everything bagel with pickles and mustard.