Chefs Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Hestia, Emmer & Rye and Henbit have had a bizarre May. The former earned his second consecutive James Beard finalist nod and the latter was named a Best New Chef in America by Food & Wine magazine. All while running new-to-them takeout operations at Hestia and Emmer & Rye and overseeing restaurants with empty dining rooms.
Things may be getting back a little closer to normal starting today. The chef partners announced that Hestia reopened its dining room Friday, but things will operate and look a bit different than before. They won’t be seating 50% capacity or even 25% capacity.
“For us, all of the state’s guidelines are almost bare minimums,” Fink said. “All good restaurants have always gone above and beyond, whether it’s in food quality or sourcing or safety in general. And I think in a pandemic, you watch those good operators continue to do things like that.”
Hestia plans to seat 15 tables a night via reservations through its website, meaning if you’re dining in the large space, there may be just a half-dozen other tables seated at the same time. Guests book their $120 12-course meals (10 savory courses, two sweet) in advance, and a chef from the restaurant calls guests before their reservations to discuss dietary restrictions and menu options. Menu items include Mangalitsa pork belly, wild onion pizelle, grilled crab, dry-aged New York strip, buttermilk panna cotta and more.
“We had to do something that our team was excited to do,” Fink said of the new operation.
While staff at the restaurants will be wearing masks and partitions will be in place to protect guests safety, Fink hopes the restaurant can still offer a special hospitality experience.
“There’s so much of restaurants where people have become accustomed to not eating in them now. And they think, ‘Oh, my life’s not terrible, I can do this now,’” Fink said “But there is definitely a reason why we’re in love with the hospitality of it. And it’s not just being served. There’s a part of the warmth that you feel when you’re in an environment like that. There’s a great longing and missing that feeds your soul.”
Fink and Britsol-Joseph had already dipped their toes back into in-restaurant service in a small way with their Emmer & Rye. Guests there can order a $60 picnic-style meals, paid for via a contactless method, and then dine on the patio sat at 25% capacity at the Rainey Street restaurant.
The prix fixe menu includes sourdough baguette, red snapper crudo, broccolini with soft egg, white Sonora agnolotti with ricotta and sweet corn, pork shoulder and more.
The partners hope to reopen the dining room at a limited capacity next Friday, eliminating their dim sum service, while toying with the menu.
“We will definitely amend and change and innovate. That’s what we’ve always been good at,” Fink said.
Fink acknowledges that hard and fast answers in how to deal with the pandemic are hard to come by but that safety and awareness will be their top priority. As diners slowly start to return to dining rooms, they can expect things to look and feel a little bit differently, but Fink says they should expect something else, as well.
“Expect an appreciation.” Fink said. “Everybody in our industry has had to fight for their lives.”
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