Tomorrow we kick this baby bird out of the nest and hope it flaps its wings. Almost two years ago Cam first left me a message saying he had an interesting proposition. We got together and the conversation I’d always envisioned occurring somewhere far down the road just happened. We were going to open a restaurant (as long as I was interested. Never has there been a more obvious ‘no duh’ in my life.) Asa, Cam and I had a bunch of really exciting conversations after than, where we mostly fleshed out what we would want to do with this project. We ate a big dinner at Joseph Leonard and decided that since we all love that place, we could definitely make a place we would all love even more.
When we started talking about the food, I was obsessed with a few french cookbooks, and was revisiting my time in the classic french midtown pretheater stalwart I cut my teeth in (the late Renee Pujol, for anyone keeping score.) I had decided that french would have a moment soon, since two years ago it was the least cool cuisine in the world. The city was then, and remains to this day, all hopped up on stoner asian-american food. But I thought there was something in subverting everybody’s hard-held expectations of french cooking: that either you got the same Bistro food you get everywhere, or that you got Haute Cuisine heaviness. I knew that the french ate pork and anchovies, and thus that french food had a place in brooklyn. My partners agreed.
That settled, we had to find real estate. There followed a bad year or so of shady brokers, shadier landlords, terrible spaces, near misses, and a lot of craigslist. Then, while drinking at Fulton Grand with Jack, our friendly neighborhood designer, his friend told me that he heard Joloff was moving out. I jumped. Through our year of hitting the bricks, we had gotten to know pretty much everyone in the neighborhood, and most importantly had worked with a woman named Dale Charles at PACC, a community development organization. She knew the landlord, and knew about our project, and thus we were able to get in here almost immediately. That is pretty much the story leading up to the beginning of this blog.
This is what we found:
And, through a process outlined is some detail in this blog, this is what we made out of it:
When I say ‘we’ I mean a group of very talented people. I did almost nothing. Some of the people who made this place what it is: Asa, by starting this project in the first place, and being the driving force behind the whole thing (not to mention the money, if we want to be vulgar about it.) Jack, the designer, who took the words ‘70’s french truck stop’ and got super excited about it. Jose, the contractor, who worked with a bunch of fresh fish like us and built a battleship where most would have built a beautiful dingy. Elias, his brother, the man on the scene everyday, who would take every problem we found and fix it within an hour. Claudio, the carpenter, who did things with wood I didn’t really know were possible. Edwardo and German, the electrician and plumber, who were pains in the ass but did great work and made us tight as a drum. There are a lot of other people, but I am now realizing how boring it would be to read a complete list of all out subcontractors. They all did a great job.
Now we have to cook. And then we have to bring that food out to people. And we have to get people drunk. But this is the part we know. After two years we’re finally at the part I am good at. Or at least I hope I am good enough at to deserve such a cool restaurant…
I don’t know how much I’ll be writing after this, as the 15 hour days have already started. I might do one more post after our opening weekend to cap off this document. After that, if you want me, you’ll know where to find me.