Best Chef Chris Siversen knew the location of Maritime Parc was perfect the moment he saw the buillding. He always wanted to combine a restaurant and event space under a single roof; and the former office complex in Liberty Square Park with vaulted wood ceilings, grand staircases, and wraparound terraces overlooking the Manhattan skyline was prime real estate. Siversen worked with Maritime Parc CEO Marc Haskell to transform the vacant building into a fine dining restaurant with 18,000 square feet of private event space. Maritime Parc is now beloved by regulars for its friendly vibe, fresh, sustainable cuisine, and their Thursday night special, where you can score a burger, six oysters, and a beer for 20 dollars.
Maritime Parc’s event space offers views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
Siversen’s culinary training includes working for landmark restaurants and caterers, high fashion runway shows, and cooking for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He devotes his time equally between Maritime Parc and his full service catering operation. Each endeavor allows him to exercise a unique approach to cooking.
“You have the ability to cook and put one dish together," Siversen says about restaurant cooking. "Even though you have to do it quickly and you have a lot of orders, you’re still concentrated on that one dish and you can execute recipes that are more complicated."
However, he's found with catering that he must keep his dishes simple for service to run smoothly.
“Most chefs fail when they make it too complicated," he says. "It's never going to get out the door. If you keep it simple, with great quality food and ingredients and just enough of a twist that it doesn’t look like your standard rubber chicken, then you’re going to be successful.”
The open plan kitchen at Maritime Parc allows diners to watch Siversen and his team prepare their meals.
The quantity and size of the private events at Maritime Parc make them a larger portion of his business. However, both his the restaurant and catering operation need equal attention.
“They’re two different beasts," he says. "You have to be both places at the same time.”
Maritime Parc hosts between 20 to 30 events per month. Weddings and corporate events are the most typical. The average party is for around 200 people, although there have been holiday parties with over 1,500 attendees.
“It’s exhilarating when you have a large event," Siversen says. "At the end of the night, you feel pretty damn good. You look back and you’re like, wow. It’s a rush.”
His advice for chefs is to be confident and consistent when it comes to producing a product at a larger volume.
“If you’re new in the [catering] business, you really have to not be afraid of the number,” he says, remembering that his first big party included a thousand guests. “I walked in and saw a hundred tables of ten set up and I freaked out thinking, ‘how am I ever going to do that?’ It’s daunting, but you have to look at it as a number and know that’s what it is: just a number.”
There are advantages to having both a restaurant and catering operation, especially in the same venue. Siversen's found that the restaurant shows the quality of the food on the catering side and also adds legitimacy to the operation.
“It’s a great back and forth," he says. "You get someone to eat in the restaurant and they’re like, ‘I can have an event here!’ Or someone comes to an event and tastes and sees what we do, and they want to come back and eat at the restaurant. It’s a great marketing tool.”
Sake and Soy Braised Pork Belly “Kung Bao” Style. Photo by Noah Fecks.
Spice Roasted Duck, Beet Infused Wheat Berries and Jerusalem Artichokes in Duck Pan Sauce. Photo by Noah Fecks.
original words by Bethany Kocak; edited by Alison Sher