The Open Kitchen
Partners Caiola and Salama brought on chef Katy Sparks to run the kitchen. Sparks's early involvement in the project allowed her to shape the kitchen around her cooking style as well as to meet the demands of a high-volume dining venue. "The mission was to feed 700 people - we can seat 700 when we're open outside," Sparks explains. "It became a problem to be solved, because there's only a finite amount of space here in the kitchen. There's no downstairs prep kitchen, no other room." A row of high-powered Jade Range grills and griddles flank the aisle crossing the dining room's western side. "When you're walking through, you're going to be seeing flames over to your right," Caiola says. "There will be a lot of drama."
One of the main influences on the menu will be the open-flame cooking of Buenos Aires - so she's stocked the kitchen with heavy-gauge grill grates and griddle surfaces composed of inch-thick steel. "It'll give me a beautiful finish," Sparks says of the equipment. "Part of the reason I cook is I love flame and immediacy and the alchemy of how heat changes textures and flavors." Dishes will be executed swiftly to order. "No more than an eight-minute pick-up on anything," she adds. "It's just a lot of immediate cooking, it's not tricky garnishes and playing with things with your hands. It's great raw materials, interestingly combined, but really simple. The sourcing is the biggest part."
Two gas-fired, hearth-style ovens bookend the front grill area. "We'll be able to put fruit wood in them for flavor profiles," Sparks says. "One season it might be applewood, another season it might be cherry or hickory." What might be hearth-cooked? Mussels, clams, cod in a cazuela, a duck breast over farro - "anything that will benefit from that kind of heat," she says. To round out its offerings, the new Tavern will also be tapping local purveyors like Mast Brothers (chocolate) and Hot Bread Kitchen (baked goods). "Our purchasing power will help them keep expanding their business," Sparks says.