Walk into the stately dining room at The Musket Room, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, and you’ll notice the vibrant blue banquettes and quiet elegance. But back in the kitchen, you’ll likely find Executive Chef Mary Attea and Executive Pastry Chef Camari Mick singing along to Hamilton or Hadestown or gasping at a gristly true crime podcast. “It was instant chemistry when we first met,” says Mick with a smile. “She walked into the kitchen and said, ‘Are you listening to something about murder? Turn it up!”
The Musket Room was once a bastion of New Zealand cuisine, but since Attea and Mick took the helm in 2020, it’s become a globetrotting, deeply personal celebration of flavor. The menus pull from global flavors rooted in Attea’s Lebanese heritage paired with Mack’s passion for whimsy and ‘90s nostalgia. This approach has won over the neighborhood and earned them two James Beard Award nominations: Attea for Best Chef in New York State, and Mack for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
Transforming a restaurant’s entire culinary ethos requires a great deal of passion and partnership, a feat that’s perfectly embodied in The Musket Room’s tasting menu. In addition to a plated dessert, lucky diners take home a box of petits fours, each one designed by Mick to call back to one of Attea’s savory dishes earlier in the meal. A pistachio bonbon, for example, conjures up memories of a hamachi crudo served with Cara Cara oranges and a pistachio puree.
“Camari could have made any old petits fours that she wanted to make but it’s a beautiful way to bring the meal together,” says Attea. “Maybe guests will eat them later on, and it can remind them of their evening.”
As restaurants adapt to this new era of pandemic dining, Mick and Attea are dedicated to cultivating a healthy workplace for the next generation of chefs. “I am one of few Black women pastry chefs in fine dining, so it’s very important for me to pave a road for the next generations of POC cooks and chefs — and whoever wants to be in the industry — so they don’t have to break down as many walls as I did,” says Mick.
“My goal is to continue to have excited, eager, young new cooks coming in and hopefully set them on the right path as they spend time here and pursue whatever they’re doing next,” says Attea. For her, that means getting input from everyone in the kitchen about what new dishes to introduce instead of taking up the menu mantle alone. Who knows what delights will appear in the dining room as new produce creeps into kitchens? It’s worth ordering at least once a season to find out.