Eclectic man, eclectic menu

John Sierp (right) and his partner, Serge Zborovsky, hope to make their restaurant the go-to place in the Murray Hill neighborhood. Photo: Emily Mason
He’s a firefighter, a restaurateur, a chef and a dad. And his food is as interesting as he is.
By Emily Mason

“This is awesome, this is awesome, this is really good,” John Sierp said, excitedly pointing at the menu in front of him. The menu is his own creation for the relaunch of his restaurant, Home Base, formerly Raise, in Murray Hill. He and his co-owner, Serge Zborovsky, who met as fraternity brothers at the University of Delaware, are looking to make Home Base,at 416 Third Ave., the go-to hang out for the neighborhood. The partners plan to cater to every entertainment need, serving up brunch, lunch and dinner, while providing cocktails, music and wide-screen viewing for games.

Sierp sits at a table greeting customers as they enter. Behind him, the expansive space is filled with people and lit by the glow of massive screens and venue lighting. Overhead, Air Jordan’s, Yeezy’s, and vintage Converse are swinging from the ceiling to remind patrons of old-school Brooklyn.

When Sierp isn’t dreaming up flavor combinations, he’s working as a lieutenant for the FDNY in Tribeca, or looking after his two young children on Staten Island.

First of all, how do you balance the restaurant and your work as a firefighter?

I’m not here all the time — thank god. I create the menu and all of the recipes and I train the staff and they execute, they produce the food. I was here mostly for the creative part, but day-to-day my staff takes care of things. I have two little kids at home, I have my job in Tribeca, and I have this, so it’s almost impossible to do.

What were you thinking about when you designed the menu?

It’s an eclectic menu. We have everything from Italian to Asian, burgers, wings, all kinds of fusion things, like a French onion grilled cheese or braised pork belly tacos. I try to make it so that there’s something for everybody, like Cuban egg rolls ... fusing a Cuban sandwich inside of an egg roll.

What’s your favorite thing to make?

I’ve been cooking for a long time and I don’t like to make just Italian dishes or just Asian dishes. I kind of like making everything, and when you make all different kinds of things you kind of get ideas to [combine] one thing with another. So I kind of got ideas to fuse different ideas to make things a little more funky, a little more interesting, than just having a taco on the menu.

What’s that experimenting process like?

It’s kind of like playing. You’re in the kitchen kind of just tasting things, whoever is here ... you have them try them, say yes, no, maybe tweak this, tweak that. Nothing ever comes out where people are like ‘Wow!’ It’s always ‘This could be good if you do this, or this could be great if you add that.’ There’s always something you could add or mix or do or change or tweak.

Have you ever been excited about a dish and then people don’t like it?

It’s definitely happened. Everyone’s got different tastes. Some people don’t like peppers, don’t like spicy, I don’t like mayonnaise, so I don’t put mayonnaise in anything.

How has the transition been, from Raise to Home Base?

It’s been insane. Just creating this, it’s so hard because we didn’t really close. Usually when you create a new menu, you close the place down when you work in the kitchen and just create. But, you know, we have bills, so we have to have the place open and the crowd come in. It’s hard to do that and to get everything done. We still want to add more.