with Chef Morou Outtara of Farrah Olivia by Will Blunt
February 2007

Will 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.

WB: Congratulations, 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 time.

WB: How many covers can you do at Farrah Olivia?
MO: We seat 65, so the maximum is usually 135.

WB: What about all the various ingredients – how did you conceive the menu?
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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