Culinary Heir at Late Air: Daniel Harthausen steps into executive chef role at Ardsley Park fave

Since Day One at Late Air, chef Juan Stevenson realized and curated its modish and changeable wine-friendly food program, the culinary vision of husband-and-wife owners Colin Breland and Madeline Ott.


Back in April, Stevenson told Breland and Ott of his plans to move to D.C., which meant the Ardsley Park eatery would soon be in need of its second head chef.


“We were doing a lot of interviewing and running into dead ends,” Breland recalled of the search, “and it felt like it was working against us to be putting in all that effort when we could have just been focusing on the team we had in the moment.”


Ott added, “We just took a step back and decided to find somebody who could cook really well to join Late Air.”


Meanwhile, up in Richmond, Virginia, Daniel Harthausen had managed the bar at Restaurant Adarra, a Basque-inspired bistro where he “built connections to the wine world” and began cooking pop-ups under the moniker Young Mother in 2021.


A year later, Harthausen won season one of HBO’s The Big Brunch and embarked on the process of opening his own restaurant in Richmond, but between the design and contracting phases, he opted out.


This past November, he and Breland chance-met at Encounter, Virginia’s first natural wine fair: put a pin in that for now.

click to enlarge Culinary Heir at Late Air: Daniel Harthausen steps into executive chef role at Ardsley Park fave
Nikki Krecicki

Harthausen needed work, and he wanted to keep cooking. A few months later, the couple posted Late Air’s need of a line cook to fill a partial void after Stevenson’s departure.


“At the time, I didn’t know that they were looking for a chef,” Harthausen confessed with a smile. “I was ready for a change. I had been in Richmond for about ten years at that point. I came down once to visit, and I really enjoyed myself.”


“Colin and I were like, ‘Maybe he’ll come down here and just want to be our chef,’” said Ott.


“Maybe he’ll fall in love with it,” Breland chimed in on the memory. “We had zero eggs in that basket. Daniel [was] going to come in and give us the time that we need to slowly and softly find a new head chef.”


“And then it just worked out,” Ott concluded.


Harthausen arrived in Savannah on May 1. Two days later, the trio were talking about his present position at Late Air.


“I realized very quickly that this is an institution for Savannah, and I was really impressed by that,” he said. “Also, the style of service here and the quality of the people that work here [are] what pushed my decision.”



PUTTING HIS FINGERPRINTS ON A SOLID FOODPRINT

“The idea itself as to what Late Air is to the public shouldn’t necessarily change,” Breland reasoned. “I think that, as such a small business, whoever is cooking the food and developing the menu, that’s going to be a personal experience for them.”


He added, “We’re not here to be a mold for someone.”


“He has his experience, and we want that to shine through here,” Ott said of Late Air’s new top chef.


“With Daniel’s background, it helps us get interested in other foods and styles of cooking,” Breland said of Harthausen’s Korean-Japanese heritage and his experience in kitchens whose concepts have been globally inspired, “and it’s just another perspective we can be excited about.”


On the job less than a month, Harthausen’s signature was already evident in a “bit of a hybrid” menu he largely inherited from his predecessor, “plugging things in here and there,” he said.


Before he arrived on the scene, Breland and Ott collaborated with James Stanton and Harrison Zacher, Late Air cooks from the get-go, on the beef tartare and gigante beans, which Harthausen “helped round out,” per Breland.

click to enlarge Culinary Heir at Late Air: Daniel Harthausen steps into executive chef role at Ardsley Park fave
Nikki Krecicki

This past week, Harthausen unveiled his first Late Air carte, which retains quite a few familiars while accentuating his own culture and chef’s tour in items’ accents. As a whole, the menu’s volume is not going to change much, nor should it, and will offer a similar number of shareables and small plates with a handful of entrée-ish dishes and a few desserts.


“We didn’t want to touch on one specific type of cuisine,” he said of the enduring concept, “but the influence is there, making sure that the menu talks to itself in a really enticing way is important.”


“Of course, there’s going to be tweaking and growing and changing,” said Breland, “but overall, people can expect good food from here.”



COLLABORATION IS KEY

“Taking Colin and Madeline’s vision, what they’re looking for, what they’ve done for the last year and a half, and where they want to go, is largely going to inspire how I structure this menu,” Harthausen said.


“It’s a neighborhood restaurant. It’s a wine bar. It’s a place where people want to come and hang out, and I want to reflect that in the menu,” he added.


“This is why we hired him: he is the guy who can do this job far better than Madeline or I could,” Breland said with a self-deprecating laugh. “Also, Daniel’s introducing us to so many new things that we’ve never tasted before.”


“We’re giving him free rein to bring ideas to the table,” he said, summarizing Harthausen’s brief to “apply his flavors” to a non-pop-up program in which items stay on a menu for two weeks or more.


Joining the tartare and beans in the menu’s midsection is Harthausen’s hamachi crudo, accompanied by avocado, gochujang, and shallots, while the four entrées are all his, including a pairing of local shrimp and Yukon golds seasoned with togarashi and a braised quarter chicken served with tare jus and caraflex cabbage.


In the weeks ahead, the chef anticipates offering a marinated blue crab salad in the ganjang gejang style and a cucumber salad marinated in ponzu, yuzu kosho, and horseradish, plus a “cultured butter to zhuzh up” the house-baked breads, “playing around with the anchovies,” and mixing in a terrine or two to alternate with the cured meats.


Breland noted that minor swaps with Late Air’s vegetable dishes will be made more due to seasonality than a different executive chef. As it has been since the first glass was poured, this is ingredient-focused fare.


“The thing that I really like about the way we’ve been working together is the collaborative nature of building a menu,” said Harthausen.

click to enlarge Culinary Heir at Late Air: Daniel Harthausen steps into executive chef role at Ardsley Park fave
Nikki Krecicki

“We all have very similar ideas of what we like from this format, and we’ve had a lot of experiences in different cities in ones we like and ones we don’t like,” he continued. “What I bring to the table is another voice.”



BETTER AT LATE AIR THAN NEVER

“Daniel turned everything on its head the first week he was here,” Ott said about the recent reorganization of Late Air’s cozy kitchen space.


“It looks completely different,” she continued. “It’s exciting, and it brings a new perspective and a new way to work, which is what we were looking for in this next chapter because we want to keep this forward momentum.”


“Another thing we’ve been really stoked about is Daniel’s incredible front-of-house experience and having another person that’s a voice to the food and a person that’s working in the kitchen,” Breland said. “Their relationship is not ending with the food when they finish making it.”


“I’m a talker. I’ll talk to anyone,” Harthausen said with a laugh.


Only a month in, it is evident that Late Air scratched the community-driven itch Harthausen had planned to create back in Richmond, a dinner-focused restaurant featuring Korean and Japanese food. Young Mother, he admitted, was a “joke name” at first that then morphed into a meaningful homage to his mother, who taught him how to cook.


“It was definitely a nod to her,” he said and explained that many Koreans have Japanese ancestry dating back to the latter’s imperial occupation of the former.


“I learned that story about my family history later in life, so that’s what motivated me to find the connections, the things that I already knew about my Korean culture and how they’re rooted in this other part of me,” Harthausen said.

“It was a really fun narrative-driven project,” he added, “and it taught me a lot about myself and the food that I wanted to cook.”


“What I’m going to do here is not necessarily going to be that, obviously, because it’s not that concept at Late Air, but the influence that experience had on me,” he paused, “I’m ready to turn the page and see what the next chapter of me being a chef is going to be.”


Late Air (2805 Bull Street) is open Monday through Thursday (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday (4 p.m. to 11 p.m.).


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