Cooking From the Heart

By Rona Berg / June 12, 2017

At the Conrad New York, Executive Chef Gerron Douglas creates beautiful, sustainable dishes with love

Gerron Douglas, executive chef at the Conrad New York, grew up in Los Angeles, watching his mother, father and grandmother, all excellent cooks, and learning from them.

“My mom cooked day in and day out, putting food on the table for me and my sister,” says Douglas. “She never took a day off and we always had something hot to eat.” His grandmother was the one who cooked for all of the holidays and special family gatherings. She hailed from Alabama, so her cooking was classic Southern style: mac ‘n’ cheese, fried chicken and collard greens, and she lived in St. Louis for years, so BBQ was part of the repertoire, too. His dad was the adventurous one. “He started to develop me as a foodie at a young age,” Douglas continues, “cooking things like frog’s legs and octopus, which was very exotic back then.”

Douglas had a serendipitous start to his career, which includes stints with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events catering arm and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Back when he was in school, Douglas went to sign up for woodshop, but the course was closed. So he wound up taking home ec instead. A friend went to culinary school and, as it turned out, Douglas already knew a lot of what he was learning. So he toured Le Cordon Bleu Program at The California School of Culinary Arts, and was hooked.

He now oversees the LEED-certified Conrad New York Hotel’s signature restaurant, Atrio Wine Bar & Restaurant, the seasonal Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar and in-room dining, with a few secrets he relies on to extract amazing flavors from signature dishes. “I’m a big fan of crushed red pepper flakes, it deepens the dish and adds a nice element of heat without being spicy,” he says. He also loves honey, which he sources locally in New York City, from purveyors with rooftop beehives, and is working on putting in his own beehives at the Conrad New York, hopefully this year.

Douglas works directly with farmers as much as he can, and develops relationships with them, because, “if you put in good ingredients, you get out a good dish.” He believes in “harnessing the natural flavors of an ingredient, we want to source in season and source the best ingredients we can.” His dishes feature organic ingredients as much as possible (around 65 percent is organically sourced), which

are highlighted on the menu. “It may be a cliché, but I cook from the heart,” he says “I treat everything I prepare as if it was for family and friends, not a paying customer.” And it shows.

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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg