Connecting the Dots


Connecting the Dots

Andrew Tarlow Interview

Portrait: James Ryang / Video Editor: Yuichi Uchida / Music: Jon Wiley / Marlow & Sons, Marlow & Daughters, Diner: Mel Barlow / Roman’s : Polina V. Yamshchikov / Wythe Hotel images courtesy of Wythe Hotel

It’s been more than 15 years since Andrew Tarlow opened his first restaurant in Brooklyn.  Since then, he’s created an accidental empire that includes restaurants, a butcher, a bar and a bakery. Now, he’s expanding into apparel and daily commodities. Periscope sat down with Andrew to talk about his methods, and how they translate across multiple businesses.  (This story was originally published in Periscope iPad edition vol. 1. For the full, interactive story with a full length video, go to the app store.)

What led you to opening the first restaurant?
Before opening Diner, I was a bartender. I was also a painter and an artist. I was living very close to where Diner is. The business on the corner, the old diner, was vacant and it became available. It had been left there for a long time. We decided to take it over with a group of friends, and rehabilitate it, and spark new life into it.
What was your vision then?
The vision really was about having a place for people who lived nearby to come together, and gather and eat. It was really a pretty desolate corner, at that time. The vision of what it is now, and the vision of what it was then are two very distinct ideas. One is an outgrowth of the other. Things have changed quite a bit.
   We now source all our food, like all the other restaurants, directly from farms. We buy all our meat directly from farms. All the animals we use in the restaurant, come in whole form. They get brought to our butcher shop and brought to our store. They get taken apart and used for all the food services.
   When we buy animals like cows, sheep, and pigs from farms, we are committed to those farmers. With a cow, you’re basically making a two-year commitment. To take a calf to a fully, raised cow that we can purchase, it takes almost two years. For the other animals, a little bit less time. We’re committed to our farmers from a long-term standpoint.
Is this something you consciously built or is it something that just developed organically?
It grew organically. It’s a long process but it came out of this idea of trying to find out where our food comes from, and how we can get it directly sourced to the table and not buy foods from strangers. Equally, the hides of those animals get turned into leather bags that my wife is designing (for Marlow Goods). So the restaurant now has really become a holistic idea of lots of different pieces.
Tell us about the process of making the most out of animals.
When animals are taken to a slaughterhouse, they get picked up there and driven to our butcher shop, and then they’re driven to our hotel. We have a commissary here, where we can break animals down. Certain parts are allocated towards for each of the chefs. Then, they do the menu planning based on what is coming in.  The hides are kept at the slaughterhouse. Then, they’re picked up and brought to a tannery in upstate New York, where a three-generation family tanner is taking care of them. They are tanned there using a veg-tanning method that is environmentally sound. That leather then gets dyed, and brought here to New York. We have bag makers here in New York and New Jersey who then sew each one for us by hand.
Marlow Goods is a component outside of your food services, but yet connected to them.
Yes. We want to grow it organically like we’ve grown the businesses. We’ve spent a lot of time connecting the dots, for example, finding our lamb and/or sheep purveyor. Then, being able to get that wool from those sheep to a mill, turn it into yarn, and then, knitted into sweaters.  We’re hoping to continue to grow those connections and really get to know where our clothes come from, how they’re made, and see if we can really have a line of clothing that is full circle. The long, bigger picture is: can we grow organic cotton in the United States? Can we really trace all those things back?
In the process, you seemed to have created a community around these restaurants. Were you conscious of that?
Not in the beginning, I didn’t realize it. But I work really closely with our key employees and a lot of the employees, teaching people how to run businesses, and how to think of ideas, and how to create them, and how to put them into place. It makes sense that then people would be doing it for themselves in terms of the kind of work that we’re doing and the way that we’re doing it. We’re not trying to create secrets where we own everything and hold everything. We’re definitely trying to have an open system.
You don’t really publicize the way you handle food.
I don’t really want to have a dining experience that feels like you’re being lectured to, or you’re being told that this is all the right stuff. I also believe that for the local food movement to succeed, in a lot of ways, other restaurants and everybody else need to do it. In the end, I don’t believe that’s the thing that will really make us stand out.  If everyone else has the same ingredients, it becomes more about the community that we built here, and who we are as people, and how we approach our guests and our community on a daily basis. I believe that’s the thing that really makes us stand out at least that’s the thing that we are most focused on.
When you look back your childhood, what do you think made you who you are today?
Totally accidental. I’ve always been passionate about food growing up as a kid. I had grandparents and parents who were super-passionate about food. I do believe that there is an innate thing that most people hold, in terms of wanting to take care of others. Certainly, the easiest way to take care of someone is to cook food for them and then present it.  I think it’s a pretty natural idea in all of us, and whether that can be a business, or whether that’s what you do at home,  we all do that for each other, quite often. It’s a great expression of our care for other human beings.
What drives you to go to work everyday?
I’m certainly excited about all the people who work in these businesses and bring so much energy, on a daily basis, to what we do. I’m equally super-excited about our farmers and about the guests who partake in it.  This is really being able to connect those dots–take care of people in that way, and take care of our employees, that is definitely the thing that brings me to work on a daily basis.
  • Diner
  • Diner
  • Marlow & Daughters
  • Marlow & Daughters
  • Reynard
  • Reynard
  • Andrew Tarlow photo by James Ryang


Team Periscope is traveling in


  •    RSS Feed