David Hynes grew up in Brooklyn, learning to cook from his Italian mother. His first restaurant job was washing dishes at the age of 16, and he eventually ran kitchens for BR Guest, a chain of high-end New York restaurants that included Blue Water Grill, Primehouse and Strip House. He and his wife, Alexandra, who works for the New York-based restaurant group Momofuku, recently moved to her hometown of Columbia, Md., and Hynes took on the job of executive chef at Waterfront Kitchen.
How is it moving from a corporate kitchen to a small place? The company I worked for had more than 12 restaurants in New York City and none grossed less than $5 million a year. So yes, it’s an adjustment. I don’t have the same buying power. But it’s great because I get to be more interactive with guests and the food. I hope to bring a neighborhood feel to Waterfront Kitchen. I grew up in Brooklyn. Your neighborhood defined you. I’d love the people around here who work for a living to identify with what we are doing here.
Some folks think Baltimore is kind of Brooklyn South—people butchering pigs on the roof and growing honey in the alleys…Baltimore seems to be making the turn Brooklyn was making 10 years ago. The food scene started growing. All of a sudden Barnes & Noble and Starbucks wanted to be in Brooklyn. I didn’t know anyone who butchered pigs on a rooftop. My friends and I would roast whole pigs when we had barbecues. That’s the same kind of feel I get in Baltimore, particularly down here in Fells Point.
WK was founded with a strong ethos. It’s not just farm-to-table, but kids’ greenhouse next door to table. I’m looking forward to spring when we’ll have herbs, tomatoes, heirloom carrots, maybe eggplants. We’re about to restart kids’ cooking classes. I’m having conversations with Living Classrooms about potential stages and trails so kids can learn about back-of-the-house. It’s a day in the life type of thing in the kitchen.
When did you become interested in cooking? I cooked by my mother’s side when I was a kid. I grew up Italian/Irish, my mother is the Italian half. To me that means peasant food, keeping it simple, not drowning everything in ingredients.
What is your go-to recipe from your mom? We call them rice balls; everyone else would call them arancini. My family is the only one I know of that makes them this way.
What makes them different? They have pork products, soppressata, ham, prosciutto. If I tell you much more I’ll be divulging a family secret.
I picture nice fat running through it. Do you use a little red pepper? Are you going to put this in the magazine? My mom would kill me.