FOOD CULTURE: Chef-driven Restaurateurs
It may not be a widespread trend just yet, but in pockets of the country, chef-driven restaurant groups are setting up a model for business and creative success. 2011 Portland Rising Star Restaurateur Kurt Huffman’s ChefStable cultivates culinary talent by taking a hands-off approach when it comes to what chefs do best, cook. “I don’t get involved [in the food or concept] at all,” Huffman says. “I help with the structure, process, and pricing.” On the East Coast, Hilda Staples is a restaurateur to be reckoned with; first opening VOLT with Bryan Voltaggio and later Graffiato with Mike Isabella and Rogue 24 with R.J. Cooper—all idiosyncratic, chef-driven restaurants. She manages funding, real estate, financials, and other back-office work, allowing her chefs to cook up their own vision of a restaurant. Neighborhood Restaurant Group is another DC-area example, with chef-driven concepts, such as Birch & Barley and Churchkey. These restaurateurs have yielded some of the country’s hottest restaurants. It’s a model we applaud and hope to see more of in 2012.