Refrigerator Look Book: Ivy Stark

(Photo: Dos Caminos)
(Photo: Dos Caminos)
(Photo: Dos Caminos)

Dos Caminos is an upscale modern Mexican restaurant in New York City, New Jersey, and Florida that you maybe…probably… definitely have already been to for a birthday dinner or girls’ night out.

The woman behind the menu (for the past 11 years) is seriously experienced executive chef Ivy Stark, previously of Zocalo, Rosa Mexicano, and Amalia. And yes, while it’s definitely a place you can order quesadillas and tequila, Stark is on a mission to improve the perception that all Mexican food is unhealthy.

“Obviously Tex-Mex is all melted cheese and heavy flour,” she says, “but authentic Mexican isn’t like that. It’s corn tortillas, a lot of fresh seafood, tons of vegetables. It’s really very light.”

So Stark, a long distance runner who competed in the 2014 New York City Marathon, has introduced healthier options to the menu, like a pumpkin chili soup, roasted red snapper, and crunchy veggies with guacamole instead of tortilla chips.

She usually eats meals like that at the restaurant twice a day, and when she’s super busy in the kitchen, she’ll sip green juice she made at home from a thermos (instead of reaching for whatever’s on hand, like many chefs).

We got a peek at what she eats at her her place in Dumbo, Brooklyn, for dinner and before a run.

(Photo: Ivy Stark)
(Photo: Ivy Stark)

You’ve been at Dos Caminos for 11 years. How has Mexican cuisine influenced your home cooking? There’s always a basket of chilis in the refrigerator. I put them on everything. And I always have homemade salsa in the fridge and am constantly adding different things to it. For example, the salsa in there right now is a roasted tomato salsa. It’s so easy to make. I just take tomato, chili, onion, and garlic, put it on a cookie sheet and broil it until blackened. Then I blend it and add some salt, lime juice, and cilantro. I literally put it on everything.

Yum. I know you’re eating at work quite a bit. What’s your breakfast at home? During the week I have a shake with frozen fruit and almond milk. There’s some POM juice in there that I add. On a day off I make myself a Turkish breakfast that’s really light and delicious with yogurt, tomato, honey, almonds or walnuts, and olives.

Sounds delicious. Do you have any indulgences? I usually make one indulgent dinner per night at home on a day off. It’s usually homemade pasta, although recently I’ve been experimenting with different grains. I made a quinoa pasta that was great. Carbonara is a favorite, I have to have my bacon and butter. Or Cacio e Pepe with some great Pecorino.

You’re making me hungry! What’s dinner on a healthy night at home? Usually it’s a grilled piece of fish with some salsa and lime juice with sweet potatoes, mashed or roasted.

What do you have before a run? I’ll usually have my shake before a run in the morning. Afterward I like to have some protein, like a spoonful of peanut butter or a tortilla with peanut butter.

Another Mexican influence! Where do you do your grocery shopping? If I’m going for a long run, I’ll stop at the Fairway in Red Hook and then take a car back. They have a great selection of really interesting Mexican ingredients, and they’re the first to get seasonal stuff.

Are there other healthy Mexican cuisine staples that you eat or drink? The Mexicans have long been fans of vegetable juice, way before we were in this country. I’ll make a big thing of juice every few days and bring it to work in a thermos. I like to combine pineapple with the green stuff. A lot of times that might be my sustenance all day. Most chefs don’t get time to sit down and eat, despite spending the whole day around food. —Jamie McKillop

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