Robert Newton

robert newton chef

Robert Newton and Kerry Diamond are perfect complements – and they just happen to be among the most charming couples we’ve encountered. They also happen to own the chic Caroll Gardens’ neighborhood favorite Seersucker, a Southern-inspired restaurant that uses local ingredients and has an ever-changing menu; as if these two weren’t irresistible enough. The couple started their venture together in June 2010, and since have also opened the ever-popular Smith Canteen down the street – a coffee/takeout shop situated in a twentieth century pharmacy (original tile floor and shelving intact).

While Diamond comes from a background in fashion and beauty (see her shop the aesthetic piece here), Newton comes from a culinary one; it’s no wonder the sweet blend of the two has created an atmosphere that makes Brooklyners regulars and Manhattanites commuters. Newton hails from Arkansas, and blends his professional experience and personal background to create elevated Southern cuisine. This cuisine is largely inspired by the Carrol Gardens Greenmarket Newton frequents across the street – a spot where many of his ingredients come from. This makes for a constantly changing menu. With menu items like Chantarelle Dusted North Carolina Trout, and Hudson Valley Pork Belly with Red Eye Gravy, Seersucker consistently keeps diners on their toes.  With a fried-chicken dish referred to as “life-changing” more times than we care to count, we couldn’t help but sit down with Seersucker’s chef and owner for as many delicious details as he would give us…

What is different about your food?

It’s a modern approach to Southern food. It explores the traditions, ingredients, techniques and more that I grew up with down South, and combines them with the great education I received cooking in some of New York City’s best kitchens. It challenges peoples’ notion of what Southern is all about.

What we all should know about Southern food?

It’s the original market-driven cuisine. Seasonality, locality, preservation; all of these things are key to Southern cooking. Many people think Southern food begins and ends with comfort food, but that’s false. It is a more complex, rich and varied cuisine than it is given credit for.

Are you constantly making changes?

Yes. Since we’re all about seasonality and working with small farms and purveyors, the menu changes all the time. The direction is often driven by what’s available to us. It’s a bit of an adventure and always a challenge, but we prefer it this way and we think our guests like it too.

What’s always in your fridge?

It’s sad and lonely in our fridge. Our organic milk doesn’t have many friends.

Can you share any personal menu favorites from Seersucker and Smith Canteen?

At Seersucker, I love our pork belly. It’s confitted Hudson Valley Berkshire pork with white beans, hominy, cracklins from its own skin and our version of red eye gravy. Pork, corn and beans are the essence of Southern food—plus it’s all local and seasonal. At Smith Canteen, I have lots of food favorites, but for me it begins with the coffee. I’d be lost without our red eye.

What’s the best time to come?

Early.

What don’t people order on your menus enough?

We have a side of organic white navy beans from the Finger Lakes, cooked in ham and chicken stocks, with diced country ham and fresh herbs topped with olive oil from Georgia. It’s served in a little crock and is so sexy and delicious. It’s even better with a side of cornbread. But it doesn’t get the love. Brooklyn does not seem to share my bean obsession.

Is there anything in all of your dishes that screams “Rob”?

Black pepper and country ham, except in the vegetarian dishes of course.