What’s the philosophy behind the menu at Chapel Grille?
We use the tagline: “The menu goes where olives grow.” The menu is influenced heavily by the olive growing areas of the northwest Mediterranean (Spain, Italy, Greece, Southern France), as well as our own nation’s olive growing area – California.
We focus on fresh, big flavors and a menu mix that offers our guests a broad variety of what we call “center of the plate” items with creative yet identifiable flavor profiles, and attractive but not over-the-top presentations. We use a variety of olive oils from the aforementioned regions in our dishes and serve extra virgin olive oils with our house focaccia.
When did you first realize you wanted to work in the restaurant industry?
When I was 15, I was fortunate to land an apprentice position with a French chef. I really took the job for the money but soon became fascinated with cuisine, and pastry in particular. I pursued pastry and savory simultaneously and have been committed to both ever since.
How has living in Strasbourg, France and New York City influenced your cooking?
I started my career in Newport. I made the move to New York City after 10 years in the business. Manhattan was a real education in terms of work ethic and high performance. Le Crocodile, French Laundry and Le Gourmet Sans Chique were educational as far as technique and so on, but mostly they were validation that I knew my way around a three-star kitchen and could perform at that level.
Restaurants in France and throughout Europe in general rely greatly on locally available products and traditions to create their menus. It is not a new thing. When I was in Strasbourg, we would go to the local markets to explore what was available to cook and that is how we developed the menus. In New England, we have great seafood and seasonal produce. In order to please our customers at Chapel Grille, we rely on a combination of locally available seasonal items and imported items. The key is quality and freshness, which have been instilled in me through my experiences early in my career.
What is it like to be involved in the opening of a restaurant?
When I was 18 years old, I was a primary player in the opening of the new Le Bistro location. There was a great learning curve, and at that age, I did not really have the maturity to manage people effectively, but I did have the energy and endurance to stick with it. I made many mistakes and learned from them.
Opening a restaurant is an endurance sport. One must choose to be steady at all times and stay healthy to be able to go the distance. We had our act pretty well together going into the opening of Chapel Grille, but still there were many adjustments that had to be made, from personnel to menu to operational mechanics to procedural items. The key is tenacity. A little brain power, and the ability to accept criticism and learn from it, helps quite a bit as well.
We attempted to open “softly” but that did not happen. We opened to very high volume from day one and experienced all the criticisms that go along with it. Social media has a strong voice, which we listen to and respond accordingly. We will continue to improve. I will never rest on my laurels if I ever get any laurels – that’s just the way I am.
What do you love about Rhode Island?
For raising a family, I don’t think you can do much better than Barrington, where we live now. We love community and Barrington provides that for us. I enjoy the ocean and bay and all the recreational opportunities. Rhode Islanders are loyal, regardless of how difficult outsiders (and insiders) report it is to thrive here, and I appreciate that about us. Just make sure you provide us value and parking and we are okay.