Sous Chef Series | Garett McMahan

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Garett McMahan, the chef de cuisine of New York City’s Perilla restaurant, really wanted an ’85 Cadillac. So at age 14, he took a job washing dishes at a restaurant in his hometown of La Porte, Indiana, and worked there until he was 18. By then he’d been bitten by the restaurant bug, and following his high school graduation, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.

For his culinary school externship, McMahan worked at Bouley in New York City; the restaurant eventually hired him for a paid position. He then went on to work at New York’s Atlas, Citarella and The Harrison, where he first made the acquaintance of Perilla chef-owner (and winner of the first season of Top Chef) Harold Dieterle.

He’s worked at Perilla since the restaurant opened in 2007. And though the restaurant serves dishes as varied as baked eggplant stuffed with paneer and spicy duck meatballs, for Sous Chef Series, McMahan focused on a basic dish: A green salad with a sprightly vinaigrette.

Romaine Salad with Bee Pollen Vinaigrette

Recipe adapted from Garett McMahan, Perilla, New York City

Yield: 2 servings (with enough spiced pecans for 4 salads)

Cook Time: 15 Minutes


Spiced pecans

Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon

Pecan halves, ½ cup

Granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon

Aleppo or cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon


Extra-virgin olive oil, ¾ teaspoon

Shallot, ½ small (peeled, halved crosswise and thinly sliced)

Honey, ¼ teaspoon

Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons

Bee pollen,  ½ teaspoon (optional)                        

Grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper 


Romaine, ½ head (leaves separated and roughly torn)

Apple, ½ (preferably Honeycrisp; cored and thinly sliced)

Wedge of Pecorino cheese, 1 ounce (shaved with a vegetable peeler)


1.  Make the spiced pecans: In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the

•   Unsalted butter

 Stir in the

•   Pecans halves

•   Granulated Sugar

•   Aleppo pepper

Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir occasionally, until the pecans are toasted and glazed, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a large plate and set aside to cool.

2.  Make the vinaigrette: Use a paper towel to wipe out the skillet and then place back over medium heat. Add the

•   Extra-virgin olive oil

•   Sliced shallot

Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then stir in the

•   Honey

Continue to cook the shallots until they are deep brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes (reduce the heat to medium-low if the shallot-honey mixture starts to burn). Use the rubber spatula to scrape the shallots into the blender. Add the

•   Apple cider vinegar

•   Bee pollen (if using)

Purée until smooth, then slowly add the

•   Grapeseed oil

•   Kosher salt

•   Freshly ground black pepper

Blend until emulsified, thick and creamy.

3.  Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the

•   Torn romaine leaves

•   Apple slices

•   Spiced pecans

•   Shaved Pecorino cheese

Add the dressing and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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