The Launch

Sam Mason: “It’s Like the Special Olympics”

“Okay, where are my green M&Ms;?”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.

“One thing we’re trying to get lined up is our purveyor list. These are the people that are going to be supplying us with everything, and it’s a major decision figuring out which ones are going to be best for us. It’s easy to figure out some purveyors — we’ll get [the commonly used] Dairyland going a week before we open. That’s a no-brainer. And we’ll spend a couple of hours every day hand-picking produce at the Greenmarket. But some of our ingredients require a special person. Like Jing from Le Sanctuaire, who is coming by today and bringing us samples of some very hard-to-find stuff. He’s already taking care of the big guys: Wylie [Dufresne] used him at wd-50, and Paul [Liebrandt] used him at Gilt. We’ll get hemp seed, cedar, hard-to-find peppers, linen myrtle, and the very best sassafras from him – things we need small amounts of. The very best we can get.

We need a good chemical purveyor; that’s still an open question. We’ll get our microherbs from Chef’s Garden in Ohio. The problem is that we order in such small quantities that we need purveyors that take a smaller minimum order. We might only order three ducks, say. It’s not going to be like they’re used to, where a restaurant orders a whole flat of goods. Then there’s the whole problem of COD. The biggest purveyors will give you 90 days to pay, but the smaller guys, who are the ones we will primarily be using, want COD. That gets to be a pain in the ass. Stuff is coming in the morning, for the most part, and maybe you don’t want to leave your morning guy with a box of money or a pile of blank checks. But there’s no way around it.

Tailor menu, annotated.Photo: Melissa Hom

The tasting we organized last week went really well. We eighty-sixed our razor-clam dish. It just didn’t seem interesting. We need dishes to be exciting. We have a smaller roster. It’s like the Special Olympics. Every roster spot has to count. The feedback on other dishes was helpful, too. The bottom line is that if I’m feeling a dish, I’m going to hold on to it. If I start worrying myself about what people will like, I won’t be able to sleep nights. We want to make ourselves happy and then find people that want to pay for that. But in the meantime, we have to find our sources so we can make that happen.”

Sam Mason: “It’s Like the Special Olympics”