The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

In the Kitchen with Chef Arturo McLeod

In the Kitchen with Chef Arturo McLeod

In the Kitchen

October 26, 2008

Chef Arturo McLeod, 54, is the executive chef and co-owner of Manhattan’s Benjamin Steak House, an elegant establishment that combines 40’s Big Band Era cool with juicy cuts of dry-aged beef. With 33 years of experience working in steakhouses, McLeod is a pro at his craft. His African Panamanian background lends an extra element of sophistication to his dishes, which feature anything from traditional 36-ounce porterhouses to innovative Canadian Bacon “steaks.” McLeod is also extremely sensitive to the needs of his customers, and now offers leaner steaks for the health conscious.

What is the main focus of your cooking?

The main focus is getting everything perfect and making sure everything is cooked properly. Whatever comes out of the kitchen and goes to the customer has to be flawless, according to their specifications. It's a steakhouse, and since we work primarily with meat, everyone has their preference as to how they like it cooked. I've been cooking steaks for over 20 years, so I’d like to think I’m doing something right.
 
Is there a particular nutritional focus of your menus?

We focus on protein. It’s a steakhouse after all. 
 
What is your relationship with local farmers?
 
Before my delivery comes in, I make sure we order quality fruits and vegetables. I check every leaf and every inch of the produce. If anything isn't up to par, I send it right back. We focus on quality and cost, and we switch up vendors every now and then according to changing climates, etc.

Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your dishes? How?

We work with vendors from coast to coast, including New York, Florida, and Mexico, according to each region's specialties. For example, from New York, we get red delicious apples – naturally! We get oranges from Florida and tomatoes from Mexico. Again, I change vendors according to the quality and cost of their crop at any given point.
 
What are the major concerns today of your patrons when it comes to dining out? And how are you addressing them?
 
Cost. In this economy, everyone is worried about cost. Thus, we’ve cut down on a few items on the menu and wine list, and we are offering dishes in various price ranges. We’re open-minded when it comes to ordering smaller portions too. We're also working on different specials to offer more cost effective options for our diners, as well as working on new menu pre-fixes.

How important is sustainability?
 
Very important. That's why we talk to our vendors regularly, to find out exactly how they go about growing their produce. If we see that their practices are compromising the land and the environment, we cut them off. We incorporate a few organic ingredients into our menu as well. And we're working on expanding our organic selection.

How important is traceability?

We work with trusted vendors, which we have been working with for a long time. Once a month I check in with them to find out exactly what the shipping procedure is, and where the products are coming from. I also stay updated on the news, and if there are any concerns with the region that I get my produce from, I go to a different vendor in a different region.
 
What steps does your restaurant take toward conservation?

We recycle, of course! Everything from bottles and cardboard to fat and grease. Again, we're looking into incorporating more organic and sustainable products. In today's world, it's become very important to protect the environment, and we are taking as many steps toward doing just that. It's a slow but steady process.