Sam Mason Reckons With Garbage

Sam Mason looks at his future.Photo: Melissa Hom


Sam Mason, the former star pastry chef at wd-50, will be launching his own restaurant and lounge, Tailor, at the beginning of March. In the weeks leading up to then, he'll take us behind the scenes of a hot restaurant opening.

"Today Frank Derby, my co-chef, and I met with Eben Freeman, our mixologist, to talk about some of the cocktails were going to be doing. Well definitely bring back the bell-pepper margaritas from wd-50, and of course we have some liquid nitrogen, so that will make for interesting cocktails. Our food costs arent that high, but the savory ingredients are going to bring them up, probably to 26 percent or 28 percent of the total cost. But we can compensate for that a little with liquor sales. Thats one of the reasons were going to have a large drinking area downstairs. (I dont want to call it a lounge; it will be more like a salon.) I'm smart enough to know that liquor generates revenue. I'd be an idiot to open a dessert bar and think I could make a profit without it. Not that Tailor will be a dessert bar, but its similar enough to one economically to require our having a major drink space.

Meanwhile, the space itself, which is on the corner of Broome and Thompson, is still under construction. The walls are starting to go up today, but the place is going to be in build-out for the next month. Luckily the contractors have been totally on point. But theres just so much you dont realize when youre thinking about opening a restaurant. Take today. We're deciding the garbage schedule. I never really thought about it before. You have to have your garbage hauled off daily, but we can't have it picked up late. There are people who live upstairs and we cant disturb them. And of course it cant happen during service. So we figured out that it should be preservice, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.; that way we can unload the garbage that we prepped all day. A lot of garbage is generated in the prep kitchen meat scraps and bones and all that. But now, to hold it, we have to make a garbage room! And we have to make it very cold, practically to the point of refrigeration. So were thinking about that. Private waste contractors are pricier than I could have imagined.

The thing thats really exciting me right now is that we have the test kitchen totally furnished with equipment at last. We have a convection oven, an immersion circulator, and a dehydrator. Were going to be doing very systematic, elaborate testing of all our recipes starting next week, with multiple temperatures, times, and platings for each dish. Im never more excited than when I'm pulling plastic off a Jade plancha [a cooking range] and a new ice-cream machine. Weve got juicers, a Cryovac [a kind of vacuum sealer], a Pacojet [a high-tech ice-cream machine] even a stereo, TV, and fireplace!

But I cant concentrate only on food. I need to reconfigure the dishwashing area, I need to hire an assistant manager. I almost feel as if Im overthinking everything. But Id rather overthink than underthink."

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