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 we’re going to be doing. We’ll 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 aren’t 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. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to have a large drinking area downstairs. (I don’t 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 it’s 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 there’s just so much you don’t realize when you’re 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 can’t disturb them. And of course it can’t 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 we’re thinking about that. Private waste contractors are pricier than I could have imagined.
The thing that’s 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. We’re going to be doing very systematic, elaborate testing of all our recipes starting next week, with multiple temperatures, times, and platings for each dish. I’m never more excited than when I’m pulling plastic off a Jade plancha [a cooking range] and a new ice-cream machine. We’ve 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 can’t concentrate only on food. I need to reconfigure the dishwashing area, I need to hire an assistant manager. I almost feel as if I’m overthinking everything. But I’d rather overthink than underthink."