Blunt: Tell me about your restaurant, your concept,
and how it all came together.
Morou Outtara: It’s every chef’s
dream to have his own restaurant, and I was always taught
that what you do best is what you know. I grew up eating African
cuisine until I moved to this country at 22, then I learned
to do American cuisine. So I wanted to create a restaurant
that would blend both of them in a sophisticated way. We’re
doing what we call “Creative American Cuisine.”
We want the exact same thing to show in the restaurant. When
you walk in it is American, then when you look closer, we
have coconut rings hanging from the ceiling and animal print
behind the bar – African touches, but not in your face.
it’s a beautiful restaurant. And the dinner was seamless
– how did you pull it off? What are your tricks?
MO: When you have a dish that has 4-5 things
on it, you have to make sure that the line cook is not taking
care of more than 2 at a time for each dish on his station.
Check the sauces at 5pm so you know they’re amazing;
check the potatoes and season ahead of time; make sure each
element is perfected and in order. At the end of the day,
a dish is going to be at least 95% great if you ensure ahead
of time that everything is in order. You can apply the same
theory to large parties. It helps that my background is from
a big restaurant. At Signatures I used to do 400
covers a night, including a 75-seat private dining room. The
biggest thing is making sure everything is ready by a certain
WB: How many
covers can you do at Farrah Olivia?
MO: We seat 65, so the maximum is usually
WB: What about
all the various ingredients – how did you conceive the
MO: We were less than a month old at the
time of the dinner, and the audience was filled with mentor
chefs. We wanted to introduce our menu, and this was a great
opportunity! Some dishes were different – none of the
amuses are on the menu, neither is venison – but everything
else is a good representative of our menu.
WB: How long
did it take to get the restaurant together?
MO: We wanted to build a restaurant on an
existing space so we wouldn’t have to do much to the
kitchen, just the dining room. We signed a lease June 1 and
we opened the restaurant November 7. We got our contractor
on August 20, so we were behind schedule already…Grizform
Design Architects designed the space with the help of Heather,
my wife. The restaurant is named after my child, so we decided
to put some of her pictures around. So really we just had
to design the space to fit the cuisine. I wanted the African
items to be visible but not quite in your face.
WB: How did
you design the kitchen?
MO: We didn’t do much at all. The
kitchen was there, we just had to make sure that all the units
worked – the walk in, the ovens, the steamers.
WB: Did you
splurge on anything?
MO: Not so much – we worked with what
was there. But I did put in the spice rack – that was
my one big project that I did all by myself. I added another
freezer unit for the pastry department, and also a salad and
appetizer prep station. And the dishwashers are new, of course.
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