The Freds at Barneys New York Cookbook


By Mark Strausman

By Susan Littlefield

Formats and Prices




$21.99 CAD




ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 24, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The definitive cookbook by the celebrated chef and managing director of Freds at Barneys New York, one of New York's most beloved restaurants with locations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Barneys New York, with its flagship store on Madison Avenue, is a world-famous cutting-edge fashion destination, and a true New York phenomenon. And since 1996, Barneys' restaurant Freds at Barneys New York–named after found Barneys Pressman's son Fred–has been offering in food what Barneys offers in fashion: a luxury destination that provides a level of personal service second to none, where the food keeps their celebrity clientele coming back for more.

In The Freds at Barneys Cookbook, Strausman invites you into the kitchen of this restaurant institution and teaches you how to bring a piece of New York chic into your own home. Whether its the Belgian Fries or Estelle's Chicken Soup, Mark's Madison Avenue Salad or Chicken Paillard, Traditional Bolognese (or Vegan!) or Cheese Fondue Scrambled Eggs, this cookbook commemorates all of the delicious recipes Freds has served over the years at the Madison Avenue, Chelsea, Beverly Hills, and Chicago locations.



My life first intersected with Barneys when, at the age of thirteen, I was dragged there by my mother to purchase my bar mitzvah suit. Coming from a family of Jewish immigrant merchants, she wouldn’t dream of purchasing that garment anywhere besides Barneys, the temple of menswear founded by Barney Pressman, patriarch of another Jewish immigrant merchant family. I didn’t care where we bought the suit. I spent the subway ride from Flushing, Queens, to Manhattan sweating with dread at the prospect of standing exposed before some cranky tailor, who would invariably frown, tsk, and shake his head in dismay at my portly short frame, tugging roughly at too-tight trousers with a hand full of pins perilously close to my privates. Even more terrifying was the looming event for which I was being dressed. As a dyslexic reading Hebrew in front of a congregation full of school friends, I was in danger of my nerves destroying the pose of class clown I affected in order to cover up my learning disabilities. I survived both the fitting and the Torah portion, and my mother thought the suit looked terrific.

I couldn’t have guessed that twenty-six years later my life would intersect with Barneys in an even more significant way, when I was asked to helm the restaurant in their new Madison Avenue flagship store—the restaurant that would become Freds. In those twenty-six years, Barneys had transformed, under the guidance of Barney Pressman’s son Fred and his grandsons Gene and Bob, into a world-famous cutting-edge fashion destination, a true New York phenom. I had transformed, too, although not quite as spectacularly. I had become a chef and restaurateur—a perfect profession for someone with learning disabilities. I had spent four years training in classical European kitchens, eight years exploring Italy and Italian food, and had some visibility in the New York dining scene after opening several high-profile restaurants. I was mature enough to appreciate the parallels between Barney Pressman’s Horatio Alger–type story and my own (again less spectacular) family’s. And I was thin enough to fit into at least some of Barneys’ clothing without needing the services of a tailor.

Now, more than twenty years after opening Freds in 1996, I see how well suited (pun intended) Barneys and I have been as collaborators. That, I think, has been the secret of Freds’ success and the longevity of our partnership. From the beginning, I’ve tried to offer in food what Barneys offers in fashion: a luxury destination that provides a level of personal service second to none. My youthful dread of tailors notwithstanding, when we first opened Freds I developed a fast friendship with several of the Barneys tailors; we had a mutual respect and admiration. I saw that we were in a way doing the same thing. Like me, they were practicing an Old World craft, and our approaches were actually quite similar: classical techniques combined with a hospitality tailored to individual customer needs and requests.

My collaboration with Barneys New York is stronger than ever, and, as I look around the dining room with amazement, I’m proud to say that Freds has become an institution. It’s not just that the restaurant is busier than it’s ever been. It is, and that’s no small accomplishment in New York, a town as tough on a business as Hollywood is on a marriage, where if you make it ten years you’re an old-timer. What makes me happy, though, is that I know so many of the people in the restaurant: long-time staff, and customers who have been coming here regularly since we opened, whose families I have watched grow, people the staff and I count as friends.

At this writing, Freds Madison has satellite restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago, and in Barneys’ newest addition: Barneys Downtown, which re-opened in its original 7th Avenue location in Chelsea. Genes Café in the Madison Avenue store is also under the Freds umbrella. It was an honor to be offered the opportunity to create a restaurant for Barneys, and the collaboration has ultimately provided deep career satisfaction, beyond expectation. It constantly challenges me to flex my entrepreneurial muscles, is a canvas on which to express my creativity as a chef, gives me purpose and connection as a teacher and mentor to hundreds of employees, and affords me the pleasure of extending hospitality to the most interesting clientele in the world.

“No, I’m not Fred.”

Much has been written about the history of Barneys, so there’s no need for me to go over that subject. Suffice it to say that although it seems natural now that it should be located on the Upper East Side, Barneys’ expansion there was a huge deal and propelled their reputation from downtown edgy to full-blown fashion-world force. The location, at the northwest corner of Madison Avenue and East 61st Street, could not be more perfect for a high-end retail business—and a restaurant. When you stand on that corner you almost literally have one foot in the offices of midtown while the other foot is grounded in one of the wealthiest residential corridors in the United States, the area within the boundaries of East 61st and 79th Streets, and Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue.

Any business venture needs a good name, and we were having trouble finding the right one. It’s 1996 and I’m in a conference room at Barneys’ downtown headquarters, sitting between brothers Gene and Bob Pressman, Barney Pressman’s grandsons, the third generation of the Pressman family to run the store Barney created. I’m there because we’re working out the details for the new uptown restaurant. The Pressmans know my Flatiron restaurant Campagna, with its rustic Italian food, and know me from my days at Coco Pazzo on East 74th Street, and at Sapore di Mare in the Hamptons, the part of Long Island where pretty much the entire Upper East Side decamps for the summer. The Pressmans are confident that I know the uptown neighborhood very, very well, and they’re extremely positive about my plans for the restaurant so far. There’s just one detail: We can’t quite figure out a name. Gene and Bob are arguing about it; I wish I could remember the names we were considering, but each brother is adamant about his choice. As I recall there are heated words exchanged between them. I’m feeling uncomfortable because I don’t particularly want to weigh in on the choices and be seen as preferring one brother over the other, especially so early in our partnership. There’s a silent impasse between them, and suddenly an idea pops into my head that instantly and clearly seems the right thing.

Fred Pressman in 1972

“Freds!” I say. “The restaurant should be named after your father!”

They both turn to stare at me, and about one second later we have a deal.

Fred Pressman’s legacy at Barneys was paramount. He was the man who brought Barneys into the modern era, who set it on the path from men’s discount store to world-class fashion emporium, expanding its reach well beyond menswear to include women’s, children’s, and home sections. He (and his family) introduced Americans to cutting-edge European designers, including Giorgio Armani, Azzedine Alaïa, and Dries Van Noten, among many others. He insisted on the outstanding customer service Barneys is still famous for. The New York Times credits him as saying, “The best value you can offer a customer is personal attention to every detail, and they will return again and again.”

I was also aware that naming a restaurant after a person usually implies a level of casualness and comfort, a feeling subconsciously that you’re going to someone’s house, and that was the vibe I was looking to create. I wanted the restaurant to be beautiful, but not so formal that you only visited on special occasions. Where you’d come dressed nicely, but didn’t necessarily have to put on a jacket and tie. Where you’d feel cared for—whether you were simply stopping in for a bowl of Estelle’s Chicken Soup on the way home from work, entertaining your best client at lunch, or celebrating with several generations of your family at Sunday brunch.

Fred Pressman passed away in 1996, just a few months before we opened his namesake restaurant.

At each Freds location I’m asked fairly regularly if I am Fred. No, I am not Fred. But I’m happy to say that I met him, and glad that his legacy lives on in Barneys.

The Move to the Ninth Floor

When I’m in Freds Madison, the sun-drenched space on the ninth floor, with its large windows and little balconies overlooking Madison Avenue, I have to strain to remember—and I’m willing to bet that even long-time regulars have forgotten this—that the restaurant was originally located in the basement, where the beauty and apothecary sections are now. It’s not just any basement; much of the first floor above it was open so that you could peer down at the activity below. As a restaurant, the space was dark and intimate and at the same time built for the buzz of people-watching, whether you were looking down on the diners or up to the shoppers. Conveniently, you didn’t necessarily have to enter the restaurant through the store; we had a designated entrance on 61st Street.

In 2001, Barneys decided to reorganize the store and move Freds from the basement to the ninth floor, where it is now. Change is usually disconcerting, and we were nervous about how this would be received. People liked the subterranean, clubby vibe downstairs and we anticipated a lot of complaints about moving. In addition, the restaurant would be losing its separate entrance, so we thought people might have a hard time figuring out how to actually get in when the store was closed (we were right about that, but it worked out eventually).

Over the summer of 2001, the new Freds was constructed, and by the end of August the kitchen was finished, new tables and chairs unpacked and arranged, silverware, plates, glassware set out, food ordered. Everything was ready for the City of New York Department of Health to come and inspect the new Freds on September 15, and then we could make a smooth, swift move. Of course, it didn’t happen that way. On September 11, tragedy engulfed our city and our country. Like everyone else in those first overwhelming weeks afterwards, the staff and I were shell-shocked, unable to fathom the unfathomable, going through the motions of our lives and our work, knowing our understanding of the world had fundamentally changed. There was only energy for survival, certainly none for a major move, and even if there had been we couldn’t move into the new space until it was inspected. The beleaguered, overwhelmed city agency had no time for anything like that.

It seemed like a lifetime, every day then seemed like a lifetime—looking back I wonder how they were able to manage it at all—but by late October the city was able to inspect the kitchen and we opened upstairs. The light that floods in from the huge windows there felt very healing, and seemed like a small gift after the terrible darkness and varying forms of loss we’d all experienced. As regular customers began to come in, one by one, there was the greeting, the spoken or unspoken understanding that we were all thankful to be alive, grateful to be a part of our community, one small, warm circle in the millions that make up life in New York City.

My Route from Queens to Madison Avenue

I was excited about the partnership with Barneys. It was a plum job—it still is. The opportunity to create a restaurant in a high-visibility destination that attracts visitors from all over the world was something that I, as a young, ambitious entrepreneur, was eager to take on. It was also a chance for me to break out of the role in which I had become typecast: that of Italian chef. I’m not Italian; I’m a Jewish boy from Queens who happened to fall in love with Italian food. I saw in Freds a way to expand my repertoire and resurrect some of the skills that I hadn’t yet used in my professional career because they fell outside the scope of an Italian restaurant. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

My route to becoming a chef was a little unusual, but I’d never been one to go by the book—and I mean that literally, because of my learning disabilities. After a dismal semester or three at several different colleges, I was struggling to finish a degree in Hotel Management at New York Technical College, at the same time holding down a job I loved: cooking at the UN Plaza Hotel. I enjoyed cooking, and knew I had a talent for it. I’d taken over my mother’s kitchen when I was in high school, shopping and cooking (but drawing a firm line at cleaning) when she went back to work after my father passed away. During my last semester at New York Tech, one of my professors, Dr. Thomas Ahrens, asked if I was interested in doing an internship in Germany. I jumped at the chance and went there expecting to stay three months. I ended up staying for four years.

The Grandhotel Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt, Germany, is where I was stationed for my internship. I’d never seen a kitchen so enormous and pristine. I knew within the first few days that I wanted to extend my stay, because it was clear that I couldn’t possibly learn everything in three months. Working in Europe was going to be my college degree, my culinary Ivy League education. Despite its size, the Hessischer Hof was a farm-to-table restaurant long before that was a buzzword. Foragers and growers would show up at the back door hauling wicker baskets full of things like porcini mushrooms, chanterelles, or wild strawberries for the chef to look over. Like any young apprentice I started with the lowliest of the low tasks as a chef de commis (junior cook), and I knew that hard work was the key to extending my stay. A high point was the day the head chef told me, “Ach, Herr Strausman, with that last name you might as well be German.” I knew then that he approved of my work, and at the end of my internship he was happy for me to stay on as an employee. I spent the next year there, moving up the ranks, before deciding to branch out and see what I could learn from other places. I deliberately sought out jobs in large well-respected grand hotel kitchens, rather than smaller à la carte restaurants, because I wanted the experience of handling volume and variety. I spent about a year at what is now the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, in Montreux, Switzerland, before returning to Frankfurt to work at the Kempinski Hotel. My last year was spent at the InterContinental Amstel in Amsterdam. At the Amstel I reached the coveted position of chef de parti (senior chef), unheard of for an American at that time. I even got a little local press when I revived their tradition of the grand Sunday brunch, complete with decorative ice sculptures.

Mark with Freds Madison executive chef Alfredo Escobar

After four years in Europe I reached a point where it seemed like I could either stay and make a life there permanently, with my network of friends and culinary connections, or I could leave it all before I got in any deeper, and come back home to New York City. Fate intervened with that decision when my grandmother Estelle (she of Estelle’s Chicken Soup) died and I came back for the funeral. I was glad to be back home, and I realized I didn’t really want to live the life of an expat in Europe and that I was in a fine position to conquer New York City. Or so I thought.

When I left for Europe, the big culinary hero in America was Paul Bocuse, one of the originators of nouvelle cuisine. By the time I came back to New York in 1986, Americans had stopped idolizing European cuisine and were embracing American regional cooking. As I pounded the pavement, clutching a resume that detailed my impressive roster of European experience, I was repeatedly asked, “Yes, but where have you worked in America?” That wasn’t what I was expecting, and that disappointment was my first lesson as an entrepreneur: adapt or perish.

I was offered a job as a cook at Mortimer’s, Glenn Bernbaum’s Upper East Side society haunt extraordinaire, and I reluctantly took it. Mortimer’s was an amazing place; on any given day, walking by the dining room from the kitchen to the bathroom, I would catch glimpses of some Kennedy family member, Nan Kempner, Nancy Reagan, or a famous CEO. Still, it wasn’t the kind of job I wanted. I was disappointed in myself, and discouraged, and afraid my mother was disappointed in me, too. A Jewish mother sends her son to Europe to get what amounts to a doctorate in food and he comes home to take a job as a short-order cook. I lasted at Mortimer’s for about nine months before the indignity of flipping Glenn’s famous “twin burgers” (small patties that were easier to eat than regular size ones) got to me. Glenn understood why the job wasn’t for me, but it wasn’t the happiest parting when I left. Years later, Mario Buatta reintroduced us and we laughed about it. I was too naive at the time to truly appreciate Mortimer’s, but looking back I see that I learned a great deal in my short time there. It was absolutely pivotal to my understanding of what hospitality is, at least on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And subconsciously it created a template for what Freds would become. From Mortimer’s I learned that, generally speaking, the richer a person is, the simpler their tastes. Plus, Glenn was a master at the complicated social equation of seating a dining room, which itself was an education, and I liked how pampered he made his regular customers feel.

After Mortimer’s came a year spent cooking at Jacqueline’s, a champagne bar on East 61st Street. The proprietor, Swiss French transplant Jacqueline Noss, was the only person I’d met in my job search who knew the reputation of the places I’d worked at in Europe. She got it, and I was relieved. My time there was significant because it’s the place where I met my future- and eventually ex-wife, Susan, mother of my children and co-writer of this book. My culinary education wasn’t over yet, however. One day in my search for a job that had more creative potential, I met with Italian restaurateur Pino Luongo. That meeting, arranged by the late, unofficial culinary matchmaker Marc Sarrazin, who was president of the wholesale meat purveyor DeBragga and Spitler and who also understood my training, began a partnership that lasted seven years, sparked a friendship that has outlasted the partnership, created several of New York’s hottest restaurants in their time, and welcomed me into the world of Italian cooking, a place where I thrived for many years.

Pino, a Tuscan actor-turned-restaurateur known for bringing Tuscan food to New York at Il Cantinori, was seeking a chef for Sapore di Mare, a restaurant he was opening in East Hampton, New York. I wasn’t trained in Italian cuisine, but Pino liked my enthusiasm and the fact that I’d worked in Europe. Plus, we’re both talkers, so we hit it off right away. In the spring of 1988, we headed to Wainscott, the village in East Hampton where Sapore was located. Housed in an old mansion with a long porch overlooking tony Georgica Pond, Sapore was the first New York City restaurant to land in the Hamptons, and it’s impossible to overstate the buzz that restaurant generated. Everyone came, a clientele out of a celebrity-obsessed dream, on a nightly basis. Calvin Klein, John Kennedy, Jr., and his sister, Caroline, Italy’s Agnelli family, and a roster of artists and art dealers: Ross Bleckner, Mary Boone, Leo Castelli. The celebrity sighting reached its absolute zenith on the night Jackie Onassis joined her daughter for dinner and stunned the whole restaurant into silence. It was madness, and I absolutely thrived on it. I also thrived on establishing relationships with the local farmers who were there at that time (the old-timers are long gone, but happily there are still some wonderful farms out there), and I loved being able to live and cook according to the seasons. Susan and I got married after that first crazy summer, and spent a six-week honeymoon traveling around Italy, the first of many Italian trips over the next few years. The travel nourished my relationship with Italian food, and I began to develop my own style within the genre.

Pino and I opened Coco Pazzo on 74th and Madison Avenue in 1991. I was the coco pazzo, the “crazy chef,” with my wild creations, the pickling, butchering, and curing, the enormous, groaning antipasto table, and my complete love of my craft. Coco Pazzo was a sensational success, and I was proud, as an American, to earn a three-star review for an Italian restaurant from the New York Times. I drew on that success to open my own restaurant, Campagna, in 1993.

Campagna was the ultimate expression of my love affair with Italian food. By the time it opened I had steeped myself in Italian food and culture and had refined my own approach to Italian cooking. Campagna means “country” in Italian, and Campagna’s food was big, rustic, and flavorful. And popular. In the early years we would still be seating people for dinner at midnight. New York magazine dubbed Campagna “media central” because of all the music business people, artists and art dealers, and other creative types who hung out there. Campagna was not without its detractors, on the grounds of it not being a “real” Italian restaurant. It’s not the kind of thing that factors into the conversation these days when someone opens an ethnic or regional restaurant, but I spent a lot of time back then justifying having an Italian restaurant as a non-Italian. At the same time I was beginning to feel constrained by the Italian label and found myself wanting to meander away from it at times. I started reviving some of the Jewish foods of my youth, offering up chicken soup and latkes at the Jewish holidays, for example. So when Barneys offered me the opportunity to run their restaurant I was eager to do so.

Credit where credit is due: I can’t overstate the platform that Barneys, with its massive retail star power, provided for me to expand my career. My training in Europe was still relatively fresh in my mind, and I was ready for the challenge, but I’m not sure I could have stepped outside of the Italian box, and succeeded with such an eclectic menu, without their clout behind me.

I figured an eclectic menu wouldn’t be out of place in Freds because the whole of Barneys is a curated mix of luxury brands from all over the world. Clothing from Belgian designer Dries Van Noten hangs across the sales floor from Dolce & Gabbana. So why can’t Belgian fries share the menu with lasagna? Why on earth can’t bouillabaisse coexist with spaghetti and meatballs? And since people from all over the world shop at Barneys, as well as the well-traveled locals in the neighborhood, there was bound to be appreciation of the classic European dishes I wanted to mix with the Italian ones. Barneys provided the legitimacy, the infrastructure, and the exposure for me to utilize all of my training and experience to realize one of my dreams: creating a restaurant with a cuisine that could encompass all my influences, and a kitchen on a par with the ones where I’d worked in Europe.

Freds’ Influences

What kind of restaurant do you put in a temple of fashion? As I considered that question and planned the menu, there were many influences. My Italian food would be heavily represented, of course, because that’s what people knew me for; they’d be disappointed if that wasn’t on the menu. The Pressmans and I thought about Harrods Food Hall and the restaurants in Harvey Nichols in London. Certainly I looked to society restaurants such as Mortimer’s and the Brown Derby in L.A. Elements of all those places are in Freds.

But I also kept returning to a distinct restaurant moment I remember from my travels in Europe. Susan and I were driving through Normandy. It was lunchtime as we pulled into the center of a small town. There was absolutely no one around, the shops were closed; it was spookily quiet, like the day after the apocalypse. We were starving, so we headed to an inviting-looking restaurant on one corner of the town square. As soon as I opened the door I was hit with a blast of sound: It was the chatter of people talking, plates and silverware clanging, the glug of wine being poured. Everyone in the town was there, the owners of those closed shops, other local business people, probably lawyers, accountants, doctors. We had a delicious meal of brasserie-style food, but the food wasn’t as memorable as the feeling we had when we opened the door and felt ourselves lucky to be in the midst of the bustle of life, to have stumbled into the warm, inviting center of that particular universe. That’s exactly the feeling I wanted people to have when they came to Freds.

Someone recently referred to Freds Madison as “kind of a neighborhood coffee shop,” and even though I’d never thought of it that way, I had to admit that’s quite apt. I probably wouldn’t have been pleased with the coffee shop label when I was first starting out in my career, when I longed, like most young chefs, to be an innovator, to blaze new culinary trails with my food. Of course I still want people to love my food; every time I pick up a pan to make something I’m looking to knock someone’s socks off. But, really, I just like to make my customers happy. I’m like a Jewish grandmother that way, just with some classical culinary underpinning. If I had to describe my style of food, I’d say that it’s Escoffier meets Grandma.

The reason the coffee shop name applies is because I’ve purposefully put together a menu of relatively uncomplicated food that you can eat every day. In fact, when we first opened I served the entrée salads in Buffalo china bowls, utilitarian china that’s commonly used in diners. Freds’ food isn’t looking to outshine my guests; it’s not unlike fashion in that way, where you want people to notice you, not the clothes you’re wearing. At Freds you might notice that what you’re eating tastes really good, but you probably won’t interrupt the flow of your conversation to comment on it. I like simple classics, but as anyone who’s ever watched The Great British Bake Off knows, simplicity is a hard thing to pull off because every element has to be absolutely perfect. So although it’s important to me that my food has classical underpinning, nurturing my guests is where I get the most pleasure.


  • "There are...many offerings inspired by [Strausman's] days as chef at Italian restaurant Campagna and his love of Italian food...Strausman encourages even reluctant cooks with clear directions and many helpful cooking tips. [THE FREDS AT BARNEYS NEW YORK COOKBOOK] is a wonderful peek inside the popular restaurant."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Many credit Chef Mark Strausman's '80s summer restaurant Sapore di Mare in Wainscott as being "the first Hamptons pop-up." That credit probably belongs to Chef Henry Soulé's takeover of East Hampton's The Hedges for the summer of 1954. But there's no question that Strausman's pioneering farm-to-table approach at Sapore di Mare left a lasting mark."Dan's Papers
  • "The intriguing tale of how the drab downstairs eatery in the flagship Madison Avenue Barneys New York morphed into the brightly expansive top-floor Freds is well-told in the detailed, entertaining and wholly practicalThe Freds at Barneys New York Cookbook... Written with Susan Littlefield, it chronicles [Mark] Strausman's 22-year role as the guiding toque, giving much due credit to the store's savvy, fashion-minded guiding hands, Fred Pressman, son of founder Barney Pressman, and later, Barney's grandsons, Gene and Bob...I propose a toast to Freds and Mark Strausman with the establishment's signature cocktail, naturally, the Fred and Ginger."—Mimi Sheraton
  • "But more than a cooking manual, the book comes to us as a memoir and artifact..."—From The New York Times feature on Freds At Barneys

On Sale
Apr 24, 2018
Page Count
304 pages

Mark Strausman

About the Author

Mark Strausman is a chef, restaurateur and author based in New York City. In 1996 he created Freds at Barneys New York for the Madison Avenue flagship store. Subsequently he developed satellite Freds in Chicago and Los Angeles, and in Barney’s new Chelsea location, and remains Freds’ Managing Director.

In addition, he owned the groundbreaking Italian restaurant Campagna as well as Agriturismo in New York’s Hudson Valley. He also partnered to create and manage Coco Pazzo in New York City, and Sapore di Mare in East Hampton, NY.

He is the author of the James Beard Award-nominated Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen and The Campagna Table. Online, he has written for The Huffington Post and Yahoo!. He consults widely within the food and beverage industry.

Susan Littlefield is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City.

Learn more about this author