His teenage years were a bit of a wash for Devon, who took an interest first in football, then in drugs. He was booted from the South Kent school and, after a year of military school, opted for the GED. He moved to the city and fell in with a wild skater crew. His dad got him a gig working at his pal David Barton’s gym. Mr. Barton’s wife, party promoter Susanne Barstch, employed him as eye candy at her gay parties. “That was pretty weird,” Devon said, noting that his tasks often included standing around on a stage near a guy in a head-to-toe leather suit.
Devon said he had no clue what adventure with “the girls” Mr. Skreber was referring to, but that the opportunity to get paid experimenting on starving artists was a boon to his development as a chef. After putting in his time at the Grey Dog, which has a vast, diner-style menu—“eggs are actually one of the hardest foods to work with because they’re so delicate,” he said—Papa Gilroy allowed him to pick up some hours assisting in the opening of Employees Only. Once the restaurant was finished, his son inquired if he could take a low-level position in the kitchen.
“I was skeptical of the idea,” Bill Gilroy said. “It’s one thing being his father, but to be his boss is something different altogether.”
BUT DEVON HAD already developed his own relationship with the chef there, who was open to the idea, and so Mr. Gilroy gave his blessing. Devon said the chef, who has since departed, like to hit the sauce and ran a sloppy, unnecessarily chaotic kitchen. Devon had himself gone cold turkey on the booze after he noticed his hangovers getting in the way of his mastery of the Grey Dog grill.
After a year at Employees Only, Mr. Gilroy fils decided to take an apprenticeship with David Waltuck at Chanterelle.
“David had a very subtle way of letting you know if something was good or bad,” Devon told me, over a cranberry juice at Macao, his father’s Chinese-themed restaurant in Tribeca. “He’d pick up a carrot that I had prepared and look at it, and then put it down.”
Eventually, the carrots started looking right and Mr. Waltuck hired Devon, who worked his way up to the top spot in the kitchen. Chanterelle is four stars and French: Great experience, but the young chef doesn’t feel he needs to make another cream sauce.
Next came an eight-month stint as the number two at A Voce, under Missy Robbins. It was there that Devon Gilroy discovered what he already knew: His heart belonged to Italian.
Indeed, it’s in his blood. Along with recipes Mr. Gilroy developed on his own, the East Side Social Club will feature some from his paternal great-grandmother Rosemary, who grew up in Naples (one of 12 children), like a striped bass with sage. Also, a distant uncle’s unparalleled fresh mozzarella. The restaurant is a family affair: Grace, who worked the Maritime Hotel for five years, is in charge of the front of the house, and his uncle Jimmy is managing the joint.
Food is not the only realm where Mr. Gilroy’s Italian side expresses itself. “He’s definitely got game,” said Grace, who recently moved in with her brother across the street from the Social Club, which shares the ground floor of the Pod Hotel. Big sis reported a steady flow of model types going in and out of Devon’s room. She recently had a peek at his iPhone inbox. “There were all these texts like, ‘How about I cook you three course meal next week.’ Or, ‘Let me take you to this restaurant and show you about this.’ He definitely knows how to make a woman feel like she’s number one, even if she might be number three.”
Mr. Gilroy told me that if it weren’t for food, he actually wouldn’t like being around people. “I get bored easily,” he said of his love affair with womankind. “It’s like that obsessive side of me. If something’s not perfect, I lose interest.”
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