This time last year, executive chef Koren Grieveson seemed to be cruising along comfortably at Avec. She had just won a much deserved Best Chef in America: Great Lakes Award from the James Beard Foundation, and was leading a restaurant that was as packed and popular as when it opened in 2003. Of course, we all know what happened next: a tragic fire in August shut down the restaurant for months. But the restaurant quickly made up for lost time in November, with some critics thinking it had dramatically improved. With the summer heating up, we got in touch with Grieveson to see how Avec had evolved since then, and how it planned to handle the summer crowds.
Does this feel like the first summer for the restaurant?
I think we’re constantly reinventing ourselves, so we don’t even think about it like that. We have a great new sous chef [Elliot Green] and kitchen staff. Also, we’re kind of a going in a different direction right now. Sure, some staples will always be there, but were trying some new things to reinvent the format.
What new additions are you excited about with the summer menu?
The farmers market just started up, so we’re gearing to overhaul the menu. Oddly enough, our most popular dishes are the hot ones. But there will be a lot of great produce, and we also brought in some quail and a hanger steak with bone marrow and apricot.
Is the summer always busier for you?
There has been a lot of competition that has popped up around the area, so people have more choices. Still, we’ve been doing great business, and with the nice weather, people are willing to wait a little longer. They are also willing to eat later in the evening.
Are the later summer hours new?
We’ve always had extended hours, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. It’s so hard to find good food of that quality at that late of an hour.
In November Avec will have been reopened for one year, how are you going to celebrate?
We’re trying to celebrate every day, and make every day as great as the day before. We make sure we have a great time.
One last question, do you have a summer drink of choice?
[Laughs] I don’t know! Definitely something with gin. Also, I do love fresh lemonade.