“Pass this test every week, and I’ll keep you as my sous chef.”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 that, he’ll take us behind the scenes of a hot restaurant opening.
“We’re still working away on the food, trying to get everything exactly right. Today, we did a fried eggplant purée, and squab breast braised in coffee and butter and water, which on the pickup will be served with a warm coffee foam. I think we really nailed it, but we’ll always be adjusting it and all our recipes. Everything has to be evolving. You can’t just get one formula and then forget about it. Look at [British chef] Heston Blumenthal. He hasn’t changed his menu in nine years, but everything on it is constantly changing and growing.
Other chefs are a great influence. We had Paul Liebrandt [the critically praised former Gilt chef] hanging out with us yesterday. He gave us an enormous amount of feedback about our eel terrine and some of our other dishes. It wasn’t even so much about the taste profile, although he had some comments on that too. Most of his thoughts were about plating — how can you make a dish look as great as you know it tastes? It wasn’t an arranged consultation; he just called us up, and we said, “Get on over here! We’re around.” Later this week we’ll be having a tasting; we’re inviting about ten close friends. We’ve asked Wylie [Dufresne, of wd-50], and Paul will be there, but also non-chefs: We’ll have some friends, my old assistant, the Web designer for the Tailor Website and my Website. We’ll even invite Rip Taylor!
On the physical side, the walls will start going up next week. That’s when the building actually starts to look like itself, the interior that you’ll eventually see. We’re really lucky to have a test kitchen to work in before our restaurant is ready. Most chefs have to wait until everything is in place. We’re working away on our food, and they’re still laying down the floors and covering up the plumbing. We’re doing soundproofing as well, which as you know is really important now if you want to get along with your neighbors. I don’t know the details, but there is a lot of insulation in there, layers of it. The other thing we’ve been able to get done is some of the design stuff. I think we have a logo now, and of course we own the Tailor Internet domain name and all the trademarks and copyrights. There is a lot of stuff going on that I trust my partners to deal with. Right now, I’m just concentrating on the cooking.”