See how a fine dining chef cooks gourmet meals on a hot plate in his 100-square-foot apartment

Grayson Altenberg 6103Sarah JacobsChef Altenberg sitting on his air mattress.

You might be under the impression that you live in a small space.

This may be the case, however, I can guarantee that it is not as tiny as professional chef Grayson Altenberg’s new apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A recent New York transplant from the Midwest, the 22-year-old moved into a 100-square-foot studio this summer and hasn’t regretted his decision. Yet.

The media —
The Village Voice, New York Post, and the Today show, for example — has gawked at his extremely compact lifestyle, but Altenberg says he’s happy to occupy his 100-square-foot space.

A line cook at Lincoln Ristorante, we were intrigued that a restaurant professional could stand to live in a space that has no counter tops for slicing, dicing, and chopping — not to mention a stove.

Turns out, he’s perfectly capable of making a delicious dish with just a hot plate, mini fridge, and portable tray. Take a look at his process, and a (very quick) tour of his place.

This shows most of Altenberg's apartment -- behind me, there's a closet-size toilet 'room,' and to the left is a shower. And yes, that is a cast iron skillet hanging right above his pillows. He sleeps on an air mattress.

Sarah Jacobs

Altenberg has to be smart about organising his belongings. He's got these nifty shelves for his dry food and a shoe rack just the left.

Sarah Jacobs

He also keeps some cookbooks around -- inspiration for an aspiring chef.

Sarah Jacobs

Inside his mini fridge is a single egg, half a stick of butter, and barbecue sauce. Altenberg mentioned that one of his dreams is to someday open his own barbecue restaurant.

Sarah Jacobs

His mini-fridge serves as essential counter space for his hot plate and food-prep area. Above the hot plate, he keeps the up-to-date Lincoln Ristorante menu. This pretty much concludes our tour of chef Altenberg's apartment.

Sarah Jacobs

Before cooking could begin, we made a quick trip to the corner bodega to pick up anchovies, basil, and a pearl onion to make Altenberg's dish of the day: pan con tomate y anchoas -- which is essentially bread with tomatoes, onion, and anchovies on top.

Sarah Jacobs

He stressed that we should purchase the 'smoked' anchovies -- an important flavour difference for his recipe.

Sarah Jacobs

After climbing the four flights back up to his apartment, he turned on his standing air conditioning unit and began his food prep.

Sarah Jacobs

Altenberg uses generous amounts of olive oil, salt, and pepper to add maximum flavour.

Sarah Jacobs

He also takes serious care of his knives, spending up to one hour a day sharpening them with a premium sharpening stone. He claims you can turn any old drug store-purchased knife into a gourmet slicer with the right sharpening technique.

Sarah Jacobs

It's actually impressive how little of a mess he makes while prepping the dish, even as tomatoes are flying through the air to properly mix the flavours.

Sarah Jacobs

Next, the hot plate comes into play. Without an oven or a toaster, it's the only way to warm up the bread.

Sarah Jacobs

Basil leaves are clipped to garnish the dish.

Sarah Jacobs

He keeps his clock set on 'restaurant time,' which is 10 minutes ahead. 'In the restaurant business, if you're 10 minutes ahead, you're on time,' he told me.

Sarah Jacobs

Altenberg is a big fan of antique silverware. Here, he shows me his prized spoons. He's also a big proponent of chopsticks because of how easy they are to store.

Sarah Jacobs

Time to eat! He grabs one of his two plates...

Sarah Jacobs

And plates the food.

Sarah Jacobs

Altenberg insisted I didn't use my camera flash on his beautifully plated dish -- the apartment's lone window, a small skylight, lit our subject.

Sarah Jacobs

The tray also works as a lap table. He gave me a bite, too -- it was simple, but delicious.

Sarah Jacobs

Cleanup time! He rinses his bread tray in the tiny sink outside the toilet closet.

Sarah Jacobs

Given what Chef Altenberg can make in a cramped, 100-square-foot apartment, we can only imagine what his cuisine might be like in a full kitchen. Here's hoping that his barbecue restaurant dreams do come true.

Sarah Jacobs

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