Though Erik Battes grew up dreaming of a career in music, it was the ever-changing intensity of the kitchen that truly spoke to his desire to meld art with craft. “I thrive on the technicality of cooking, plus the ability to be able to express yourself creatively once you have a strong foundation,” says Battes, who strikes an outstanding balance as the executive chef of STARR Restaurants’ Morimoto in New York City.
The son of Los Angeles-based fine artists, Battes kicked off his career auspiciously, as a teenage apprentice at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in his home city. Relocating to the East Coast to enroll in New York’s Culinary Institute of America, he trained at iconic restaurants like Daniel, Le Bernardin, Aquavit and Chanterelle before securing an externship in a young, hungry student’s “dream kitchen,” Jean Georges. Here he made an immediate impression, coming onto the line fulltime after a brief stint back in L.A. under chef Michael Ciramusti at Water Grill.
Battes was later tapped to be part of the integral opening team of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry St., where he moved up to become chef de cuisine, helping earn the restaurant a Michelin star. Next up was a nearly three-year run in a corporate executive chef position with BLT Restaurants, a demanding job that saw Battes overseeing 18 elaborate concept debuts, everywhere from New York and L.A. to Hawaii and Chicago.
Vongerichten was later able to lure Battes back into the fold by naming him chef de cuisine at his three-Michelin-star Columbus Circle flagship. Back running the kitchen he’d externed in just a few years prior, he was named one of Zagat’s “30 Under 30” in New York City in 2012.
A lifelong fascination with Japanese cuisine led Battes to match his drive and talent with the expertise of master chef Masaharu Morimoto, the first name in modern Japanese food in America. Enlightened and inspired by his executive chef responsibilities on a daily basis, Battes celebrates centuries-old culinary traditions while emboldening the menu with his sharp and well-informed fine-dining palate.
While his years with Jean Georges armed him with the ability to integrate Asian elements with western cooking techniques, Morimoto has challenged him to perfect the inverse. “It’s a natural evolution for me to flip the model — to instead begin with a base of Japanese cooking and incorporate western ingredients to achieve compelling results,” says Battes. “To play in this sandbox is incredibly exciting for me. It’s different from anything I’ve done so far in my career.”
Battes is currently developing new seasonally inspired dishes to share Morimoto’s distinct perspective on Japanese cooking. He lives in Jersey City with his wife and two children.
Back to Culinary Advisory Board page