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This Restaurant Will Have a New Chef and Concept Every Three Months

This Restaurant Will Have a New Chef and Concept Every Three Months

Intro, a new Chicago restaurant, will serve as an entrepreneurship for up-and-coming chefs to showcase their skills

CJ Jacobson is the first chef to take on this entrepreneur-driven restaurant.

Do you want the chance to sample the food of promising new chefs before they even get the chance to open their own restaurant? Intro is an entirely new restaurant concept starting in Chicago next month that will bring you a new chef, menu, and design/concept every three or four months. Lettuce Entertain You’s Rich Melman and chef / partner Matthew Kirkley, will be bringing in up and coming chefs to have complete control over the restaurant for an entrepreneurship opportunity. Tickets to eat at Intro will be sold via Tock, Nick Kokonas’ ticketing system that began at Alinea.

The first chef at Intro will be chef CJ Jacobson, a Top Chef contestant who will be bringing a five-course, “rustic-refined,” California-inspired menu to the restaurant on February 4. Lettuce Entertain You and Intro founder/partner Rich Melman explained to us how Intro will work. First of all, he said, they have been hiring a team of front–of-house and back-of-house chefs, servers, and hosts, who will all have to give Intro a yearlong commitment to working with the chef entrepreneurs.

“We will introduce the chefs to our methodologies of running a successful restaurant,” said Melman. “We will also be introducing them to our team, as well as prospective financial backers. We will provide free-of-charge consulting to those who go through this program. They will be our partners. This is supposed to mimic how a regular restaurant is operated.”

To apply, said Melman, please email [email protected] If you are considered for the position, the Intro team will even fly you out to Chicago.

Chef Nell Benton takes noodles to new levels with 'Ramen Fusion' cookbook

Back in 2011, Nell Benton made headlines when she bought a restaurant for a mere $100. Four years later, she's purchased the building, built a thriving catering business and turned The National cafe and takeaway, 839 W. National Ave. (, into a neighborhood breakfast and lunch destination.

Next up, the 39-year-old chef takes noodles to new levels with her first cookbook, "Ramen Fusion" (DK Publishing), arriving in stores in October.

Learning and living abroad

We lived in Green Bay. My grandmother lived in Devon (England). Summers in the U.K., school year in the states.

My parents met in Algeria in the '60s. Travel is completely in our blood. As a teen, the farthest place from Green Bay was Indonesia. I left at 18, spent my first three months there with a volunteer group. I spent one semester abroad in the Philippines, another in Egypt. I traveled through Asia and India. I've been back to Thailand four times, once doing just a cooking class, another was working with the American refugee committee.

Growing up in Green Bay

Brett Favre used to live right behind us. My mother, who is nearing 80, she moved from the U.K. and had no concept of football. We moved to that house when I was 17. My father said, "You know who lives behind us? Brett Favre."

Dad told her, "The quarterback."

She said, "Well, as long as he doesn't throw it in our yard."

Getting started

I supported myself in college by working at two different restaurants. The first job I got out of school was with the American Refugee Committee. I loved it, but also on the side worked at an Irish restaurant.

I moved to the U.K. and worked at a trust company weekends I worked in catering. I was about 30 and at a crossroads. I was tired of office jobs and wanted to do something in culinary. I went to the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale.

Favorite meal

Hands down, I love breakfast. You know some people say they wake up and can't eat for a few hours? I don't get it. I wake up and want to eat immediately.

My favorite, which I don't allow myself to have every morning, is the full English breakfast: eggs, bacon, banger, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, toast. We have special bangers made for us from Bernie's Fine Meats in Port Washington. Our bacon comes from Bernie's as well.

Buying her restaurant for $100

This is what I've wanted since I was 7. I wrote an outline for a restaurant when I was younger than 10. It was a lot of what I'm doing now. To have that handed to me was huge.

The weekend before it was announced, I was absolutely terrified. A crippling fear. It was like being handed a baby and you have no idea of what to do with this baby. Then I realized I have nothing to lose.

Her Milwaukee angels

I've had a lot of people help me, family, friends, customers. Sean Henninger was right down the road at Times Square Pizza. I call him my Milwaukee angel. If I had a question about a cooler issue or maintenance, he was my go-to.

One customer mows my lawn. It's crazy. We had spotty Internet, and one guy helps with that. I feed him meals in exchange.

Making mentors

I started a group called Food for Thought with chef Thi Cao. We raise money for charity. There are usually five to seven chefs cooking. That's another method, to learn what people are doing by working together.

Pride of ownership (buying her building)

Terrifying. There are customers who saw what I wanted to do and helped me with the loan process. . One of my regular customers gave me access to his top-notch property lawyer pro bono to oversee the sale.

The lawyer cost alone would've been crippling. It took months and months of negotiations. I'd never owned anything.

Her next trip

Australia. We're renting a camper van. Fourteen and a half years ago, we did a road trip across the United States with two of my best friends. They're South African. We kind of all lived together once, and now we're all spread out.

Different paths

I have a twin sister. She got married when we were 23. She adopted a baby. I live vicariously through her. I love her daughter. I chose the other path. Both have their ups and downs. I am married to my business.

Adventures in eating

I had to make a dessert with tripe, and I ate so much tripe in developing this dessert I am over tripe. I don't need to do that again. It was for an offal dinner.

Noodle knowledge

I've been making my own (ramen) noodles since February. I have it down now to a science. We roll out a big batch every three days. It is something I'm really proud of. My right wrist started to hurt from rolling out dough so much. It is called baker's wrist.

Her Milwaukee meals

I love Sanford. Justin (Aprahamian) is one of my favorite chefs. All my friends who come to visit, I take them to Buckley's. Odd Duck is good for fresh ingredients and current trends. Those are at the top of my list.

If I'm not eating brunch at my own restaurant, I head to Chez Jacques. He's great. In fact, he sold me his catering van.

Fork. Spoon. Life. explores the everyday relationship that local notables (within the food community and without) have with food. To suggest future personalities to profile, email [email protected]

About Kristine M. Kierzek

Kristine M. Kierzek is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer. She regularly writes Chef Chat and Fork. Spoon. Life. columns for Fresh.

Enhanced sanitary measures and safety protocols

“It won’t be a huge flow, but a trickle back into dining out or being around large groups of people in small spaces. We’ll probably be opening at 50% capacity, and then people getting used to going out again, and being okay with being around other people and in the restaurant, and you&aposre gonna have to adapt to that. And that may look like single-use menus, silverware being sealed in some sort of pouch, maybe a sign saying that tables have been sanitized before and after people sit down. Maybe servers are wearing gloves and masks at the table.” —Kwame Onwuachi, executive chef of Kith/Kin in Washington, DC

“Look for restaurants to focus even more intently on making sure their employees and guests feel safe in their physical spaces. Tables may move further apart, and operational processes will likely change to make everyone involved feel more comfortable as we get used to being around one another once more. In addition, we will likely see a short-term rise in individually packaged or portioned meals, opposed to family-style dinners, as diners scarred by our collective trauma will not want to risk infecting themselves or others when out to eat.” —Sahil Rahman, co-owner of RASA in Washington, DC

“It’s too early to tell what regulations will be put in place, which is a problem if we are to begin preparing to reopen. We need guidance from the government as to what restrictions there will be so we’re ahead of the game. My expectation is that we will see reduced occupancy in the dining rooms and bar areas of our restaurants, contactless payments, and sanitizer everywhere for guests and staff. Together we must be sure to balance the joy of dining with the new realities of COVID-19.” —Jason Berry, co-founder of KNEAD Hospitality + Design in Washington, DC

𠇊 collaboration of the federal government, Health Department, and ServSafe should invest in a post-coronavirus safety and sanitation training program. It should focus on more in-depth cleaning standards, more strict personal hygiene practices, and implementation of food safety measures. This new training requirement should be part of passing or failing your quarterly health inspection moving forward.” —Robert Irvine, host of “Restaurant Impossible” on Food Network

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting's Blog

One of the scariest things to do for a restaurant owner is to change their menu. There is nearly always a fear that taking one wrong item off the menu will result in all a restaurant’s business slowly dwindling away. There’s a fear that raising prices will chase off all the customers, that EVERYONE will see all the changes and rebel!

In years of working with restaurant owners, private clubs, colleges and concessions with menu changes, I have yet to see any of these fears materialize. In reality, the fear itself ends up causing more problems than the changes do. After a menu change, owners are relieved they took the leap and thankful for the extra revenue. While most changes go unnoticed, the longer a restaurant waits to change their menu and raise prices, the higher the price increases have to be and the more likely they will be noticed. Price increases are much less likely to be noticed when they are done more often in smaller increments.

Instead of waiting a year and raising a price $1, you should raise it $.25 every three months. These smaller, more frequent changes also result in higher cash flow during the year. Here’s an example of how much this method can increase your cash flow. I suggest changing your menu at least every 3 months. This allows an opportunity both to keep the menu new and exciting, and to make the more frequent and smaller price increases I mentioned.

Realizing that it is better to change your menu and increase prices more frequently is one thing, but doing it could be quite another issue altogether. Without the right process, changing your menu can be a big project. With a good process however, it doesn’t have to be.

To help you through the process of changing your menu, we’ve created this list to help walk you through each step. Here it is.

Steps to rolling out a new restaurant menu

– Before you just start writing down all your favorite items to cooks, you need to set some rules for your menu. Chances are, you have a lot more great recipes than should really be on one menu. It’s okay not to squeeze everything on one menu. Save some of those great recipes for your next menu change or for chef features.

As a “rule of thumb”, I suggest to restaurant owners and chefs to keep their menus small. In most cases, 10 starters (appetizers, soups, salads), 10 main dishes (entrees and sandwiches), and 5 desserts are plenty. This provides your guests with plenty to choose from while leaving you with room on the menu to write great descriptions that sell the food. This small menu also allows you the time to create great nightly or weekly chef features. By not making your menu overly large, you can focus on making items from scratch and having fast production speeds.

Another “rule” I have is to require that every single ingredient in your menu items be used on at least two dishes. This helps increase inventory turnover and reduce the chance of product going bad before it is used up.

You should also have a plan, and even menu items, for making use of product that you have to over produce. For example, if you have a roasted chicken dish on your menu that has to be prepared before service but cannot be reused the next service, you need to have another dish to use the leftover chicken for, such as a chicken salad sandwich or wrap. Having a plan for extra prepared food will do a lot to reduce your food costs. If you utilize nightly or weekly features, these can also be an outlet for this food.

Perform a menu engineering analysis

– There are many tools for doing this, but you don’t really have to have the same type tool we use to perform a menu analysis. You simply need to determine which menu items are making you money and which ones aren’t. There are four classifications for menu items dogs, workhorses, stars and challenges.

      • Dogs are menu items that have a low profit contribution margin and low popularity.
      • Workhorses are menu items that have a low profit contribution margin and high popularity.
      • Stars are menu items that have a high profit contribution margin and high popularity.
      • Challenges are menu items that have a high profit contribution margin and low popularity.

    It’s usually a good idea to remove the “Dogs” from your menu, keep the “Stars” and “Workhorses”, and change the “Challenges” to try and turn them into “Stars” or “Workhorses”. You may also wish to remove the “Challenges” in favor of new menu ideas you have.

    – Once you have your menu items categorized based on their profit contribution margin and popularity, you have to decide which items should stay on the menu, which should come off and which ones need tweaked. If you are a new restaurant, your biggest challenge will be resisting the urge to put everything you want, or everything you have the ability or product to make, on the menu.

    Smaller menus are more efficient and more profitable. They usually result in shorter ticket times, lowered labor hours and increased sales and profitability. Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to change and roll out a small menu than a large one. For existing restaurants, the hard part is following through with removing slower moving menu items instead of just adding new ones to the list. If you run features, you have a great tool to identify menu items that could be popular on your new regular menu.

    Write recipes and descriptions

    – Using recipes keeps your cooks consistent. You need your customers to receive their favorite dishes tasting exactly the same no matter who cooks them if you want to keep them coming back. Recipes also help you price out your menu so you know what everything costs. Without knowing the cost of a menu item, you can’t know what you must price it to make a profit.

    Descriptions serve a dual purpose. They both describe the dish on the recipe sheet to the cook, and they describe the dish to the servers. Restaurants often make the mistake of not sharing a detailed enough description with the servers for training purposes. They should be able to visualize the dish being made from your description.

    Perform a menu matrix analysis

    – A menu matrix analysis is done to make sure the production of your new menu is balanced out across your restaurant equipment so no one piece of equipment or station is overloaded. To perform this analysis, simply create empty boxes on a sheet of paper that represent each piece of restaurant equipment in your kitchen, including steam wells and make stations. If you have multiple fryers or other pieces of equipment, create multiple boxes for each piece. Go through your menu item by item and list every component from every menu item inside the box representing the piece of equipment it is prepared on or served from during production. You do not need to list items that were already listed for another piece of equipment. When all components are listed, your equipment should have an “equal” (or close to it) number of items under each piece. This helps spread the menu workload across the whole kitchen line.

    Create a menu training packet

    – This is simply a list of all your menu items in the order they appear on the menu, complete with the detailed descriptions from the recipe worksheets.

    All menu items are included on the list whether they are new or not. The training packet should contain a glossary at the end with definitions of any culinary terms used in the descriptions. Remember, servers don’t often go to culinary school. They need taught what these terms mean. At the end of the training packet should be a list of the items that have been removed from the menu. If they are to go into rotation as Features, that should also be shared so servers can alert any customers who may have had those items as a favorite.

    Create a menu training test

    – This does not have to be a daunting task. It can be as simple as taking your training packet and removing words from descriptions and replacing them with “___________” spaces for servers and cooks to fill the spaces in with the missing term or ingredient. An alternative would be to create 2 to 3 questions about the preparation of every menu item for the servers and cooks to answer without the benefit of having the description in front of them. The point isn’t to make the test really hard, but to force servers and cooks to study the new menu. Servers should not be allowed to work with the new menu in place until they achieve a 95% or better score on your menu test. Cooks should have the advantage of having a recipe manual on the line to reference as needed. There should still be great encouragement to learn the new menu though.

    – Every menu should have a recipe book that serves both as a reference when starting a new menu and a training guide for new cooks. A recipe book is simply organized for quick reference. There should be tabs for each section of the menu, and the recipes in that section of the menu should be put into the recipe book in the same order they appear on the menu. Each recipe should also have a printed picture of how the plate should look when properly made placed directly after it in the book. The pages will appear as “recipe”, “picture”, “recipe”, “picture”, etc. Some other things you may want to add to the back of your recipe manual as a training tool would be pictures of properly prepped menu ingredients.

    – A prep list is a standardized tool that allows a chef, sous chef or line supervisor to plan the prep for the day. There should be a separate list for every station unless your prep is small enough to fit all on one page. If it is small enough, items should still be separated by station. This list should have a line for every item to be prepped in each station and columns where you can put how much is to be prepped for a regular shift, how much should be added or taken away from that amount for the current shift, how the item should be cut, cooked or otherwise, what size of container each item should be put in, what type of portioning utensil should be used for each item, and lastly, a column to record how much of the prepped item is left from the shift. This will help the supervisor adjust prep levels and control waste.

    Create a line setup diagram

    – A line setup diagram is a basic layout of how prepped items are placed into cold stations, steam wells, bain marie’s, etc, and where extra prepped items should be stored inside of refrigerated units. The chef or sous chef will know better where to place prepped items to maximize production speed. It is important they are telling the cooks where to place these items and not the other way around. Don’t ignore a cook’s input if they have a suggestion though.

    – Designing a menu isn’t as simple as making a list of everything you want to sell and adding a price. There are certain things that make a menu more effective and increase your sales. Not all parts of the menu real estate are equal. Typically, people remember the first and last things that they read whether its a menu, an article or a book. The details in the middle fade the fastest. This means the most valuable menu real estate are the first and the last places on the menu the customer looks. Items with the highest dollar markup should be placed in these ares of the menu to increase their opportunity to be seen. Ideally, your highest profit menu item goes right in the center of the menu. That is the first and last place a customer sees on your menu. Other psychological selling tactics used in menu design include: never putting prices in a straight column so as to allow customers to shop for the cheapest items easily not using “#8221 signs or “………….” to lead customers to the prices never putting the price in a larger or bold font to make it stick out using highlighting, boxing, icons, color and pictures to lead people to high profit items and rounding items to an even number or to the closest “.09” instead of “.o5”, effectively gaining $.04 on every sale. The front of the menu should include all contact information and a description, landmark or map of how to find the restaurant if it is difficult to find, in addition to the name, logo, website, Facebook and Twitter info. The back can be used for desserts, beverages or to market special events. Daily Features should appear on an insert placed in the menu and/or be described to every table by the server directly.

    – For weeks prior to rolling out a new menu, new items should be run as specials to get both the kitchen and the service staff familiar with those items. Both cooks and servers should be allowed to taste the new items. Practicing serves both as a good training exercise and as an opportunity to get feedback on new menu items and tweak them before you roll them out.

    – Promotions to hype a new menu should start at least one month before rolling out the new menu. It’s hard to build hype for anything in less than a month. If you know some of the new menu items you have planned, share them with the service staff so they can talk them up to customers who are curious. If you have an email list, hype the new items via email. Talk about them on Twitter and Facebook. Mention them on your website. Create a poster for your entryway. Put an insert in your existing menu. Put table tents up to promote them.

    – It’s just as important to change your dessert menu as your regular menu. Dessert menus are usually smaller and require more frequent changing to keep them fresh and interesting. If you want to keep your dessert sales up, keep things exciting on your dessert menu without making a huge, burdensome dessert menu that slows down production.

    – Make sure to meet your own time goals for rolling out the new menu. There is very little more annoying to a customer than to have something hyped to them for a solid month, then not delivered on the day you promised. If you are following all my steps, the real work is going to be done long before the roll out date and you shouldn’t have any problem meeting your deadline.

    Don’t be intimidated by all the steps and details of rolling out a new menu properly. Sure, it’s a big project the first time, but the second time you roll out a new menu, most the work will already be done for you. It gets easier every time. Within a year, you’ll be a pro. Your staff will be more knowledgeable, your production line will be faster, your food will be more consistent and your customers will be happier. All that works to earn you more profit for your restaurant, and isn’t that what owning a business is all about?

    David Chang’s first restaurants in Texas, Fuku, launched in Dallas, Plano and Houston

    11:07 AM on Apr 5, 2021 CDT

    For the first time ever, Texans can get a taste of chef David Chang’s food from home. A delivery-only brand named Fuku will serve fried chicken sandos and fries from two kitchens in Dallas and one in Plano starting on April 6, 2021.

    Chang is a James Beard Award-winning chef who started his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in 2004 in New York City. Since then, he’s grown his empire to restaurants in New York Las Vegas Los Angeles Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada. He’s also made a name for himself as the foul-mouthed, happy-go-lucky chef on the TV series The Mind of a Chef or the Netflix show Ugly Delicious.

    Fuku is described by its CEO Alex Muñoz-Suarez as a “cousin” to Chang’s original restaurant, Momofuku. Fuku has a tiny menu — just five sandwiches, two chicken-finger options, and fries — and was created to reach thousands of people at home. It’s a “ghost kitchen,” which means it’s a delivery-only concept with no dining room.

    Fuku started as a pilot program in Miami and New York City and has now grown to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and more. Fuku’s staff partnered with a company called Reef Technology to launch the kitchens, and they use Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates for delivery.

    ”Dave is fascinated with delivery,” Muñoz-Suarez says. This is Chang’s company’s third try at it, after delivery concepts called Maple and Ando launched in the past few years.

    “Dave and I don’t like to give up this is definitely something we believe in. The delivery models have worked throughout Asia for many years,” the CEO says.

    Fuku partnered with Reef in April 2020, “at the height of COVID,” Muñoz-Suarez says.

    “Everybody pivoted that way [toward delivery], but honestly, we had done a lot of our homework prior to that,” he says.

    Interestingly, all the ghost kitchens in the Dallas and Plano areas will reside in parking garages or inside parking lots that’s Reef’s model.

    Muñoz-Suarez says every item on Fuku’s menu is “blessed” by Chang — an important bit of information for Dave Chang superfans.

    The three kitchens launching on April 6 in North Texas are near UT Southwestern in the medical district in downtown Dallas and in west Plano.

    Fuku will also start delivering food from two kitchens in the Houston area on April 6, with two more kitchens added on April 7. By the end of May, the CEO plans to have six operating kitchens in Dallas and its suburbs and six more in the Houston area.

    Starting April 6, customers can check here to see if they’re within delivery range. The food is expected to be available for delivery in North Texas in late afternoon/early evening on April 6, says a spokesman.

    To celebrate the launch, customers in Texas get free delivery via Uber Eats through April 30.

    Opening-day sales for Fuku in Dallas, Plano and Houston will be donated to Southern Smoke Foundation, a group started by Houston chef Chris Shepherd that helps people in need in the food and drink industry. Fun fact: It’s the same group Chang donated $1 million to after winning the top prize on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? in late 2020.

    The Ray Hotel to open grill restaurant and rooftop lounge in Delray Beach

    Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.

    Yes, the Ember Grill restaurant and Rosewater Rooftop will be inside the Ray Hotel Delray Beach when it opens in the city’s Pineapple Grove Arts District later this summer.

    But the eatery and the lounge are not really for the visiting hotel guests. They are for South Floridians, according to the owners.

    “We don’t want to be a hotel restaurant,” says co-owner Andy Masi. “It’s going to stand out on its own. It’s less for the tourists and more for the locals. We want to give the locals a great grill where anyone living in Delray can go there three times a week if they wanted to. because we’re creating something that’s not on the Avenue.”

    Already there is buzz about The Ray, which will reportedly have a floating glass cube event space, living walls and large sculptures throughout, and each of the 141 guest rooms/suites will have a balcony or terrace.

    Later on, perhaps this fall, chef Akira Back will open an eponymous modern Japanese restaurant, bringing Delray Beach its first Michelin-level chef-led restaurant. Masi and Back have previously teamed up for Las Vegas’ Yellowtail Sushi at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino and Kuma Japanese Restaurant & Bar at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

    The swanky 141-room boutique hotel — built with local and sustainable materials — sits on a lot that was formerly the Esplanade Plaza strip mall and is the result of a partnership with Delray Beach-based developer Menin and the Curio Collection by Hilton, a portfolio of idiosyncratic luxury properties.

    Just as they did with the recent opening of the Delray Beach Market food hub, Menin has once again brought in Masi’s Clique Hospitality to operate the hotel’s food and beverage program. Fresh off of curating the food vendors for the food hall, Masi also debuted Lionfish restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in 2020.

    “First and foremost, South Florida is booming,” adds Masi. “I was blown away. at all the great local customers that go out two or three times a week. from Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm, everywhere in and around Delray. There’s this incredible group of people looking for some new restaurants to come in and shake things up a bit.”

    The concepts

    For the Ray’s Ember Grill and Rosewater Rooftop, Masi brought onboard executive chef Joe Zanelli, who has worked with chefs Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud and dynamic duo Annie and David Gingrass in San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas (where he cooked for the likes of John Mayer, Katy Perry, U2 and Metallica).

    “Sometimes the best ingredient is the one I leave off the dish,” Zanelli says. “I think that’s something that goes back to sourcing. When you source stuff that is good, you just have to take care of it, treat it right. so it will accentuate and bring out the flavors of that dish. You know, when you’re young you often add three or four ingredients, to be a little more soigné. But you learn that if those ingredients aren’t exactly helping the dish, then let’s take them out and let the other ingredient be the star.”

    Masi says that after working together in various properties in Las Vegas, “We learned how to have incredibly high quality food, but done in a way that is approachable.”

    So there will be a burger, but it will be a special “proprietary blend burger.” He also says, “Chef Joe does the greatest Peking duck on the face of Earth.”

    Other dishes include Porterhouse Steak for two, Lobster Cobb and sides such as Adult Mac and Cheese and charred broccoli.

    The average lunch check would be in the $20-$25 range per person while the dinner check would be around $40-$45 per guest.

    Masi says that the Rosewater Rooftop lounge/bar will be “a great place to have a drink. One thing we learned during the pandemic. people love to eat outdoors. And we have an indoors for when the weather is not great or too hot. You can go with a bunch of your friends, get some cocktails, get some shareables — it’s going to be global street food.”

    Zanelli adds that Rosewater’s menu items would include kabobs, Spanish octopus, chicken meatballs, bacon-wrapped dates, sushi handrolls, sliders and a few vegetable-driven dishes.

    “It kind of jives with how people want to eat now where they want to try multiple dishes,” Zanelli says.

    The vibe

    Zanelli has been in South Florida for just shy of two months, overseeing the restaurants and finding a home for his family to join him here, so he’s been busy. But already he has a good feeling about the decor of Ember Grill.

    Since the day Juniper & Ivy restaurant opened in Little Italy in March 2014, Anthony Wells has been a presence in the kitchen, climbing the culinary ladder from sous chef to chef de cuisine to the top job of executive chef 4 1/2 years ago.

    Now, the 34-year-old chef says he’s ready for a change. Last month, Wells told Juniper owner Mike Rosen he plans to leave on the restaurant’s eighth anniversary: March 2, 2022. To prepare for that, Rosen has hired a national search firm to find the next chef for the Michelin Bib Gourmand-honored 150-seat restaurant.

    When the new chef arrives, perhaps in three to four months, he or she will take over as executive chef and Wells will move into the newly created position of culinary director until his departure next winter.

    Wells said his goal is to introduce the new chef to the farmers, fishermen and ranchers the restaurant works with and to teach the new chef the elements that have made Juniper a longtime success.

    Despite the pandemic and the accompanying decline in tourism, the now indoor/outdoor restaurant is busy every night of the week. On Saturday evening, Wells said he served 400 diners.

    “I think we just want to double down,” Wells said. “We want to keep the identity of Juniper and the core values we’ve created intact, and we also want it to evolve and become that next-generation restaurant. Hopefully in their hands, they can take that next step and keep Juniper as relevant as it has been. We’ve had an incredible run.”

    But just because Wells is ready to leave Juniper, that doesn’t mean he’s planning to go far. He and his longtime girlfriend are planning to stay in San Diego, where Wells said they love the warm weather, the local produce and proteins and the friendships they’ve made.

    “We can’t imagine living anywhere else that gets sunny weather 345 days of the year,” he said.” I’ve made a lot of good relationships here, and the food products here are amazing and they keep getting more and more amazing.”

    As a result, Rosen and Wells are in the early stages of talks about opening a second San Diego restaurant together sometime in the future.

    “Juniper was my dream and Anthony, with his talents, helped that dream become realized,” Rosen said. “Anthony has a dream, too. He doesn’t know what it is yet. If it turns out his dream is a smaller concept that we have confidence in, I’ll work with Anthony on that and perhaps there will be another restaurant in the future.”

    Rosen runs a capital management firm in La Jolla and is a longtime lover of restaurants. In 2013, Rosen hired “Top Chef: All-Stars” champion Richard Blais, then living in Atlanta, to become the founding chef for Juniper & Ivy. Blais brought in Wells, who had worked for him in Atlanta. From the day the restaurant opened, Juniper has remained one of the city’s most popular and busy dining destinations, particularly for tourists and conventioneers who are looking for something unique.

    The draw is a constantly evolving contemporary menu featuring ingredients almost exclusively sourced on the West Coast. Because of that restless spirit of innovation, not every dish is a home run, but the variety keeps diners coming back.

    In the early years, Blais’s fame and outgoing personality was a big draw for guests. But Wells is a soft-spoken West Virginian who prefers to let his food do the talking. Rosen described Wells as a “quiet leader” who has always had the respect of everyone he works with.

    “Nobody outworks Anthony and nobody out-creates Anthony and spends more time developing talent in the kitchen than Anthony,” Rosen said.

    Rosen said he thinks the next Juniper chef will not be a famous name that diners will recognize, like Blais, but she or he will be well-respected among other chefs nationally.

    “We’re not looking for someone to do Anthony’s food, but we do have some of the best produce and proteins in the world here,” Rosen said. “One constant I know for sure is I want someone who will challenge diners.

    “When I travel, there are many cities where there are not a lot of original concepts. So when people come here, I want them to experience something that’s a little interesting that they won’t get in the city where they live.”

    Wells said it will be hard to leave Juniper, but he knows in his bones it’s time to go. He hopes to do some traveling, and he’d like to do some community service work locally — two things that his 13-hour-a-day job has mostly prohibited over the past seven years.

    “When you know, you know,” he said about his plan to step away. “I love Mike and everything he’s done for me personally and professionally in my career, and I love Juniper to death. It holds a special place in my heart and it always will.”

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    Haywire Uptown

    1920 McKinney Avenue, Suite 100

    Opening in the former Water Grill spot, this Plano-based Texas kitchen is set to debut on June 1. It first opened at Legacy West in 2017 as a sibling to The Ranch at Las Colinas, and immediately became a go-to spot for brunch and dinner. It was recently named one of the � Best Brunch Restaurants in America” by OpenTable. The restaurant has an array of steaks, as well as Texas-inspired plates including pork chops, snapper, short rib, and smoked fried chicken. The new, one-story space is huge with multiple private dining areas, a massive bar in the center of the main dining room, and an outdoor, covered patio that features a retro trailer (which will also serve as a dining area). Besides the extensive whiskey program and tastings, Haywire Uptown will feature a wine from every country in their giant wine cellar.

    Hudson House Lakewood (Photo by Courtesy of Vandelay Hospitality Group)

    Explore Michael Mina's restaurant empire

    Michael Mina faced a turning point in his culinary career some 15 years ago. The James Beard Award-winning chef was leaving his acclaimed San Francisco restaurant, Aqua, for business reasons and faced starting over.

    Enter tennis great Andre Agassi, a friend who would become a key partner who helped to inspire Mina to a whole different level of success. Before opening their first restaurant together, Agassi encouraged Mina to create the structure that would give him the freedom to do what he loves most: cooking and talking to his patrons.

    Today, Mina presides over some 30 restaurants in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Dubai and seven other locations. His concepts span everything from sushi and ramen to comfort food to French cuisine, and include two different steakhouse brands — Bourbon Steak (a more traditional version) and Stripsteak (with a raw bar and sushi).

    For matters of the kitchen, Mina has drawn inspiration from Agassi’s ability to mine his best under pressure on the tennis court.

    “The mindset with cooking is not that different when you’re playing tennis,” Mina says. “It’s not a team sport — it’s a one-person sport. Really, at the end of the day, when you’re in a restaurant, everyone knows if something goes right or wrong, it’s up to you. You’ve got to surround yourself with everything possible that will give you the ability to be successful.”

    For Mina, being successful has meant taking chances, whether it’s converting his long-running SeaBlue at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to the more casual Pub 1842, or launching one of his more recent projects — a rotating pop-up restaurant in San Francisco. Mina Test Kitchen is a 40-seat restaurant that changes its concept every three months, including the current Italian coastal concept and a recent barbecue theme.

    “It’s become the way we look at anything we want to do in the future,” Mina says of the pop-up. “If it’s only three months, it should sell out every night. If it’s not going to sell out every night, chances are it’s not that great of a concept.”

    However, Mina’s not one to push the culinary envelope to the point where his customers aren’t comfortable. Instead, he sees great hospitality as a tool to guide them to discover new dishes at their own pace.

    “If someone wants shrimp cocktail, I will make the best shrimp cocktail they’ve ever had — I have shrimp on the station and will poach it to order. It’s about focusing on how good we can really make it,” he says. “At the end of the day, the goal is to make people happy.”

    Browse the gallery above to explore Mina's restaurants and signature dishes, and see former chef empire tours below.

    Restaurant serving Nordic and Japanese fare headed to St. Paul’s Rathskeller

    A chef-driven Nordic and Japanese eatery is coming to the Rathskeller building on the Schmidt Brewery site in St. Paul.

    Chef/owner Adam Prince, whose resume includes running kitchens up north and, most recently, executive chef at W.A. Frost, is getting ready to roll out Rok, a restaurant featuring Nordic and Japanese fare.

    Prince had been doing Japanese yakitori-style pop-ups of things like grilled chicken skewers at Keg and Case West 7th Market throughout the summer, and originally had been looking for a ghost kitchen. But when the Rose Street Cafe space in the Rathskeller across the street from Keg and Case became available, that all changed.

    “We found such a great location that we decided to go all out,” Prince said. “Rok (pronounced Roke), is the Swedish word for smoke. The restaurant will essentially be taking on the concept of modern Japanese indoor cooking.”

    While the concept will feature a style of indoor cooking, expect the two cuisines to be distinct.

    “None of it is going to be fused,” Prince said. “If there’s a Japanese dish, it will be Japanese style. If it’s a Nordic dish, it’s going to have a Nordic style.“

    On the Nordic side of things, Prince said there will be a seasonal menu that emphasizes sustainability. “We’ll try to get all of our food within a 100-mile radius,” he added. “We’ll be smoking and preserving foods, pickling and fermenting.”

    On the Japanese cuisine side, “We’re not planning on sushi, but highlighting yakitori and using every part of the bird and using charcoal and smoke to cook. That’s the part of Japanese cooking that we’re going to highlight,” he said.

    Prince hopes to open at the beginning of April with things rolling out in phases. The first three months will feature Nordic and Japanese bowls available to go only. Then come summer, the hope is to open for dine-in services that will include some table seats, a full bar and patio.

    On a side note, John Kraus and Elizabeth Rose confirmed that the Rose Street Cafe location in the Rathskeller where Rok will be located has permanently closed. The cafe did not reopen after restaurants were ordered to close last spring during a state-ordered shutdown. The cafe closure was meant to be temporary, but the duo ultimately decided not to reopen while they concentrated on other aspects of their business.

    That being said, their Bread Lab wholesale operation inside Rathskeller remains.

    And fans of their pastries, confections and beyond still have plenty of places to get their fix.

    Rose Street Patisserie on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul and Patisserie 46 in south Minneapolis are both open for curbside six days a week. And there’s more to come. They tell us that the counter at Keg and Case will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. So cakes, confections and breakfast pastries at that location may be just around the corner.