Evolve or Bust: Ceramicist, Connor McGinn
Ceramicist Connor McGinn is an early refugee from a business degree; he bailed after college to join the Peace Corps. McGinn learned enough about himself there to ditch business entirely. “I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk and not interacting with people,” he says. He thought he might like cooking, so he knocked at the kitchen door of Restaurant North in Armonk. Miraculously, four-time James Beard Award–nominated Chef Eric Gabrynowicz hired him with the warning: “Don’t fuck up.”
McGinn rotated through North’s kitchen stations, also tending bar and serving. But when Stephen Mancini and Chef Gabrynowicz were searching for hand-thrown platters for their new venture, Market North, McGinn spotted an opportunity. He’d done pottery in college (“as reprieve from stats classes”), so he persuaded Gabrynowicz and Mancini to commission him to make plates. Nowadays, McGinn is creating ceramics for Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Twisted Oak, Jesup Hall (in Westport, CT) and for Chef Diego Garcia, recently named Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chef.” Restaurant relationships being what they are, Mancini stocks McGinn’s business card at Market North. On his end, McGinn covers kitchen shifts when North is shorthanded.
Right now, McGinn co-designs pottery with each customer. He could seek experience in larger, more profitable production runs, but he enjoys making one-offs. “I like the idea of constantly being creative. Like, when a restaurant has the same menu all year round, you don’t really have a chef back there—that’s just someone executing recipes. The most successful chefs—the happiest chefs—are constantly pushing themselves. Changing the menu. Bringing in new sources, and continuing to evolve. That’s what I want to do with my pottery.”