Chef Bo O’Connor

We admit we don’t venture to Astoria very often, but when we do, it’s for the best Greek food in the city. Now we have a new reason to go, and yes, it’s still food-driven. Since October, Korean chef Bo O’Connor has been dishing up new American comfort fare in her cozy neighborhood eatery The Pomeroy. She’s co-owner and executive chef, and while this may be her first restaurant, she’s no amateur in the kitchen. The restauranteur – a childhood friend of Lady Gaga’s – accompanied the artist on tour last year, working as her personal chef (can you even?). We chatted with Bo about her obsession with hot sauce, the importance of freshly ground pepper, and of course, what she cooks for Lady Gaga…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

That’s so hard to say! I crave totally different things everyday. Some days I need Korean; others, a great burger. I tend to like more savory and spicy foods and have an obsession with hot sauce! If I had to choose it would start with an iced quad coffee with whole milk (even if it’s cold outside). If I were hungry I’d pick up a croissant at my neighborhood coffee shop. I’d skip lunch because usually don’t have time for it….and I pig out at dinner with either Korean or Italian.

What ingredient do you consider overrated? Which would you say makes everything better? 

Filet Mignon! If you’re going to go for a great steak, choose a Rib eye or anything other than a filet mignon. I think people choose it because it’s considered “healthier” because of the lack of fat, but that’s what makes a steak taste delicious. Get a rib eye and just eat some of it if you’re trying to be healthier – it will be more satisfying.

Freshly ground black pepper makes everything better. I’m adamant that at my restaurant, all my salads are finished with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. Never buy pre-ground pepper; it’s been sitting on the shelf and has no flavor.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

I rarely have time to eat in the morning! Ever since I was a kid, I hated eating breakfast. On my drive to work, I always have an iced quad espresso with whole milk!

Growing up, were you and Lady Gaga into food together? What did you like to cook on tour? 

She’s always been into the arts, and I’ve always been into food, so we did both things together. In high school, I’d have dinner parties at my apartment and I’d cook a bunch of different things and make a mess of my parent’s kitchen and she would always be involved.

What were her favorite dishes you made? 

Tour cooking is really situational, and mostly healthy. She and her team work their butts off, physically and otherwise. Probably the favorite go-tos were half-cheat meals like gluten-free pastas and dishes with lots of vegetables and quinoa… she’s really disciplined on tour. At home though, with her hair down, whether I’m cooking or we’re going out, she’ll usually pick Italian. It’s just home for her, like Korean food is comfort for me.

Any school cafeteria memories? What are they? 

We snuck out for lunch whenever we could! I’d always try to bankrupt my parents by buying ridiculously gourmet lunches for a grade school kid.

Best advice she gave you, and visa versa…

Be yourself, believe in yourself, and work hard. In both cases.

Something we don’t know about her that would surprise us…

She’s a really good cook! She’s a way better cook than I am a singer – that’s for sure!

An easy weeknight recipe in three steps…

Roasted Chicken! One of my husband’s favorite dishes…It’s so easy and quick, and I only dirty up one pan! My frenchie Charlotte also loves the chicken scraps. Truss a whole chicken and heat the oven to 450. Cut up any seasonal vegetables and throw them into the bottom of a pan. Coat chicken with butter, salt and pepper…throw into oven for about forty-five minutes. Temp should read 155 ..Take out of the oven, let it rest for fifteen minutes (will continue to cook) and carve!

The food trend you’re loving and why?

Sharing. Food is meant to be eaten and shared with friends and family. With Korean food, you get small banchan plates before anything else and it’s meant to be shared amongst everyone. The Pomeroy’s menu was designed this way, where everything is shareable if you want it to be. I’ve always loved eating this way. Ever since I was a little kid, anytime my parents would take me out to dinner, halfway thru their meal, they would exchange plates. That’s definitely had an influence on my way of eating!

The food trend you’re hating and why?

Juicing…I actually love fresh juices, however it became such an obsession where everyone thought drinking a green juice was considered “healthy”. What people don’t realize is that that the kale juice they think is super healthy is actually mainly made up of other items to sweeten it, and is really just full of sugar. Smoothies – where actual vegetables, fruit and fiber are in there – are a much better bet.

What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?

New York always wins. It’s the place I grew up and fell in love with food. My favorite restaurants in New York are Trattoria L’Incontro for Italian, Candle Cafe or Candle 79 for healthy and vegetarian, John Dory Oyster Bar for oysters, Ippudo for ramen, Mile End Deli in Soho for a casual lunch, City Bakery for their chocolate chunk and oatmeal raisin cookies, Pylos for Greek, Veniero for their strawberry shortcake, and Marea for their fusilli with octopus!  The list could go on and on.

What restaurants (besides the Pomeroy) should we go to Astoria for, and what should we order in each?

Go to Chef Rocco Sacramone’s Trattoria L’Incontro. They have their regular menu, but then a list of specials that takes about ten minutes to hear about. Always order off the specials list! The service is great and it’s old school.

In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s the new potato in food right now?

Poke; it’s really become a trend right now.

Check out this feature with one of our favorite female chefs, Eden Grinshpan – and this interview with the talented Christina Tosi.

Bo O’Connor, photographed at The Pomeroy in Queens, NY by Danielle Kosann.