When we opened Chestnut, I was pretty much in charge of all things “kitchen”. Having spent the previous nine years at Corner Kitchen, I thought that everything would translate seamlessly to Chestnut. You’d think that a proven record of accomplishment would be easy to replicate. I mean it is only two miles away. The same people own it. It should be simple. Piece of cake. No problem.
Here’s some of what I learned.
- Let the building tell you what you should do. It will make decisions easier and more relevant. If you are constantly at odds with your environment, you will have more trouble than if you put yourself in the flow.
- Use the actual layout of the kitchen to help define what can be successfully produced. Work inside the box. It has been my experience that the creativity is best done within the limits provided.
- Work with food and dining trends (not fads) to help with choosing both ingredients and cooking methods.
The Chestnut kitchen is totally different from Corner Kitchen. It is more spread out, the stations are further apart and most of the food storage is all the way downstairs. The staff is (obviously) different, with their own ideas of what should be on the menu. As I said above, it was nine years later, Asheville was a different town in 2013 than it was in 2004. A regular food revolution had occurred. We couldn’t open a restaurant without considering all these things.
The one thing we were certain of was that we wanted to bring the Dessert Soufflé with us. It was too delicious and unique not to.
We also needed a “Signature” Soup to rival the CK Corn and Crab Chowder. I decided to try something decidedly not cutting edge (pun intended); an old-fashioned soup, handmade from scratch. Thus, the Lobster Bisque. We added Troy and Sons Oak reserve to the cream topping to add a bit of a twist.
We introduced the idea of “Medium Plates”. Kind of like entrees, but smaller. This was to respond to several things. One, that “entrée” portions are often too large. Two, people are learning to taste their way through menus and three, Medium Plates at a table for two allows for more variety and more fun. Also, if someone is on a budget, a salad and a medium plate gets them through dinner for around $20. Needless to say Medium Plates are here to stay.
A more recent development is the Monthly Menu for Dinner. When we hired Executive Chef Brian Crow, a veteran of the Corner Kitchen, he quickly realized that changing the menu every night may work great at Corner Kitchen (yes, it does), but that at Chestnut, we needed something different. Chef Crow was interested in building a stronger relationship with our guests and with our Front of house staff. He thought that a good way to do that would be to make changes to our Dinner menu once a month. He also instituted a tasting of the entire menu a couple days in advance of it coming out. This is a great example of being creative “in the box”. Brian has had great success with this innovation. Keep an eye out for next months menu!