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Family Farm to Five Acres: How Chef Greg Baxtrom’s Roots Influenced His Newest NYC Restaurant

By Noah SilversteinMar 20 2023
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Chef Greg Baxtrom — who recently open Five Acres at Rink Level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza — rattles off his impressive resume with such genuine nonchalance, that when name-checking heavyweights like Alinea, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Per Se, it takes a second for them to register. And it’s not because he doesn’t hold them in high regard; he just clearly enjoys the work over the fanfare. “They say you’re a master at something if you hit 10,000 hours. Well, I’m at about 75,000 hours in cooking, and at this point, I have a few tricks up my sleeve,” Baxtrom tells The Center Magazine.

His culinary journey began on his family’s farm outside Chicago, a five-acre plot of land that inspired the name of his new restaurant. “It was a very Midwestern upbringing,” says Baxtrom, who recalls the first “dish” he was allowed to make being buttered popcorn. As a Boy Scout (he’s currently an Eagle Scout), he learned to make beef stew, leading him to enter cooking competitions and discover his affinity for the craft. After graduation, Baxtrom entered culinary school and eventually landed an internship at Chicago’s three-Michelin star restaurant Alinea.

That experience led him from Spain to New York to Norway and, eventually, to a 2-year stint as the personal chef to Jerry Seinfeld and his family. It was then that Baxtrom began to build what would become a Brooklyn-based restaurant empire, starting with Olmsted — named for the architect who built Brooklyn’s Prospect Park — followed by Petite Patate (formerly Maison Yaki) and Patti Ann’s (named after Baxtrom’s mother). The latter just started serving true Chicago-style thin-crust pizza, “not that garbage deep dish pizza,” Baxtrom clarifies.

Five Acres presents a departure from the chef’s outer-borough restaurant empire. For the midtown Manhattan locale, Baxtrom wanted to bring accessibility and familiarity to the menu while delivering some finesse and twists commensurate with his hours logged in the kitchen. “I’m always trying to put the customer first, but I have to like what I’m doing, too,” Baxtrom explains. “The challenge is doing both: being satisfied by the work you’re doing and satisfying your guests. I’d be much richer if I just sold pasta and pizza everywhere, but that wouldn’t make me happy.”

This balance can best be seen in dishes like his take on a classic Caesar salad, which stars shaved fennel in place of the traditional lettuce and savory granola in place of croutons. ‘It still hits the flavors for the dish, but it’s presented in a new way,” says Baxtrom. “I’m here to surprise and delight; I’m not here to challenge anyone.” Other standouts sure to entice Rockefeller Center’s unique cross-section of visitors include the Maine lobster trio and the kohlrabi “fettuccine” alfredo.

With the culture of what happens behind the scenes at restaurants being mass-consumed (pun intended) — and popularized by 2022’s The Bear and The Menu — it seemed fitting to get the perspective of someone in Baxtrom’s unique position. “With the whole ‘yes, chef’ thing, I equate that back to the Boy Scouts. It was always ‘yes, sir,’” says Baxtrom. “I look at what we do more like a sport: there’s a coach, there [are] team members, and every day we’re performing.”

Ultimately, Chef Baxtrom has built a career based on staying true to his roots. His immense experience hasn’t changed who he is; it’s only enhanced who he is. The decor inside Five Acres was built using wood from his family’s farm. He’s working so he can buy that farm from his parents so they can retire. And when asked what signature dish he would create with every resource and ingredient availed to him: “buttered popcorn.”


Five Acres is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Rink Level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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