Sam Mason on the Exhilarating Highs and Dastardly Lows of Opening a Restaurant

From left: Sam Mason and Francis Derby.Photo: Jessica Kokinos-Havel
Sam Mason, the former star pastry chef at wd-50, will be opening his own restaurant and lounge, Tailor, at the end of February or beginning of March. As part of an ongoing series, Sam will write us periodic missives about what it’s like to be a young chef about to open up his own restaurant for the first time.

“We’re two months out from opening our new restaurant, Tailor. I know people have talked about it being a dessert bar, but it isn’t. The menus we’re creating are at least 40 percent savory dishes. My partner, Francis Derby, is my savory liaison. We’re both doing everything with those two poles in mind. Today we’re working with the braised artichokes that we’re going to be serving with our miso-butterscotch pork belly. We’re going to make some bacon, then deglaze the pot with whiskey and cider — it’s a balance between salty and sweet. This artichoke dish will be served with the pork belly and fresh green-apple slices, for some crispness and contrast. And we’re coming up with all these incredible ideas for cocktails. One is a whiskey with brown butter and grated nutmeg; another is a chocolate stout we want to do with our chocolate consommé, which is part of our seven-course chocolate tasting menu. And we want to have slushie machines filled with sake and rice milk. We’ve thought of hundreds of things.

We’ve been paying rent for five months! We’re waiting for a juicer, a dryer, a Pacojet, a blender. Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] told me, “it always takes longer than it’s supposed to.” Daniel [Boulud] said the same thing. But in the meantime, we’re coming up with all these ideas. If we end up serving one in ten of them, we’ll have enough for 300 menus. I can’t wait to start nailing them down."