A native New Yorker, James Kent grew up in Greenwich Village as a self-described “little fat kid foodie.” Today, he’s one of the world’s best chefs — and the force behind the exceptional food at Crown Shy.
James honed his skills working at Michelin-starred restaurants with world-renowned chefs, but he got a pretty humble start: he began bussing tables at his uncle’s friend’s diner to earn pocket money when he was just twelve years old.
Crown Shy is located in the lobby of a 1932 Art Deco building; the unusual name refers to a natural phenomenon regarding treetops — and, James admits, he just likes the sound of it. A childhood passion for graffiti has stayed with him, translating into the creativity he uses when composing his dishes — color, texture, and layering carry equal weight to flavor.
“We want Crown Shy to be an amenity for the neighborhood; a place people can call their home.”
James — center, in the Movement Shirt — with part of his team.
When the pandemic hit, James and his business partner, Jeff Katz, immediately thought of their community: sorting out severance and insurance, distributing gift cards, repurposing food waste, and feeding the city and their fellow 70 Pine Street residents.
Another COVID-19 innovation — in partnership with American Express and Resy, James and his team worked to temporarily erect ten yurts along part of Pine Street, which they call “Shy Village,” in order to continue safely serving diners throughout the winter. A few of his new graffiti works adorn the yurts, too.
“We throw a party every night; that’s what a restaurant is. People come and celebrate, and I just want to throw a party again.”
At the end of the day, this work isn’t just a job, for James — it’s a passion. And he’s hopeful for what’s yet to come: “The next six months are a time of healing for the city, and we’re looking forward to playing a role in bringing it back to life.”