A Day In The Life Of The Best Chef In New York City

michael anthony volunteers

Courtesy of Michael Anthony

Between raising a daughter and running one of New York’s best kitchens, Michael Anthony, executive chef Gramercy Tavern, has one hectic life.But Anthony, who won this year’s James Beard award for Best Chef in New York City, still finds time to help others.

As a longtime volunteer for City Harvest, a non-profit that aims to feed the hungry in New York City, he’s deeply committed to helping all New Yorkers access fresh and healthy foods.

Chef Anthony recently participated at a City Harvest Mobile Market, a bi-monthly fruit and vegetable distribution event that takes place in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

He took along a camera to the South Bronx and documented his day, from an early-morning wake-up to an evening shift at Gramercy Tavern. Here’s what it was like, in his own words.

My alarm goes off at 7:12 a.m. Recently, I've been reading this book called Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook about the harmful effects that modern industrial agriculture has had on our fruit. Another unfortunate reality: many of our neighbours here in New York City don't have fresh produce as an option for their dinner table, because it isn't available or affordable for them. Today I'll be at City Harvest's Mobile Market, where hungry New Yorkers will be receiving free fresh fruits and vegetables.

A man sometimes needs some help to get him going in the morning! My kit from the Art of Shaving makes me feel refreshed and awake.

I make myself an espresso first thing, with delicious beans from Blue Bottle Coffee.

Having time in the morning with my beautiful wife and daughter is the most important component of starting my day. I always make time for them before I'm out the door.

We unload our supplies and ingredients for City Harvest's Mobile Market immediately upon arrival. This Mobile Market has been helping community members in the South Bronx eat healthier since 2004.

Volunteer orientation begins. Today City Harvest will distribute over 19,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the volunteers will help participants select produce to take home. My job is to show them how to prepare a healthy and delicious recipe with it.

Today's Mobile Market features cucumbers, so my team and I decide to make fresh slaw with cucumbers as an ingredient.

Our recipe is for slaw made of cabbage, cucumber, and kale with pickled ramp dressing.

Here you can see some of the raw ingredients. The cucumbers are available at today's Mobile Market—my recipe is just one suggestion for what to make at home.

Fresh food really inspires me to cook, and I think that's true of chefs everywhere. Putting together all these fresh ingredients from the Mobile Market, I'm feeling that inspiration.

The final part of the recipe―tossing the dressing in with the slaw.

Usually I'm not mixing up this dish outside, surrounded by volunteers. It's a nice change.

Everyone at City Harvest's Mobile Market is excited to learn how to cook. I'm surprised by how many people I meet in just one morning—but not how much fresh food is appreciated here. There's a real need for it.

Sometimes a chef has to stand back and let others get their hands dirty.

Catherine takes a break from putting together serving plates. Volunteering is hard work, but it's always a reward when people love what you cook for them.

Talking with a woman about how to include more healthy recipes in her daily diet. I had no idea how common diabetes is now in the Bronx.

My recipe attracts lots of attention, I think because it's so colourful. In one morning, we'll distribute 450 samples to community members.

Here I am with a new friend, my best company during the Mobile Market. As a community volunteer, she really cares about helping her neighbours eat well.

Back in the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern, I help Tariq prepare our trout dish. Sometimes I never get to leave Manhattan in the course of a day!

Adding the trout to the sauce and garnish.

Helping Tracy put the finishing touches on a vegetarian plate with an abundance of fresh peas, finally in season. Believe it or not, this isn't so different from what I was up to this morning at the Mobile Market.

Scott, our Assistant General Manager, in the kitchen at Gramercy Tavern.

These grill masters are crucial to Gramercy Tavern. The restaurant couldn't run without them. Soon, I'll leave the rest to them and get some rest. It's been a long but fulfilling day!

Now see what a typical morning is like at Gramercy Tavern.

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