You may have eaten the pop-up dinners, you should have watched the videos already, and you probably voted for which candidate you think deserved the job of Table, Donkey and Stick's chef. The Alpine inn-inspired restaurant in the former Bonsoirée space held six pop-up dinners with six different chefs to see whose interpretation of the theme should win them the post, and the choice has been made. It's Scott Manley, protege of Paul Virant and veteran of Vie and EL Ideas, and you'll have the chance to congratulate him all this week as the restaurant holds an open house tonight through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:00. There will be housemade bread with pickles and rillettes for $5 (eat in or to go) to offer a little preview of the menu, plus a selection of beer, wine and brandy. (Cash only.)
So why Manley? Manley's menu, built around a half boar he acquired from Slagel Family Farm, impressed diners for its rustic porky flavor, but it wasn't the only one by any means to get rave reviews from attendees. Owners Shin Thompson and Matt Sussman were also impressed by what they saw of Manley in the kitchen during prep and service. As Sussman told us, "It was incredibly competitive the pop-up dinners alone yielded no clear winner. The strength of Scott's leadership and experience in the kitchen, and his full embrace of the concept he was the only candidate to butcher half a boar and a dozen chickens, or to source the delicious Alpine cheese he served in his cheese course set him just a bit ahead of the rest of the field." Sussman elaborated on this in a statement on Facebook:
Scott Manley worked for many years under Paul Virant, a nationally respected chef whose approach to ingredients and cuisine aligns well with our own. He recently served as a collaborating chef at El Ideas, where he had the opportunity to regularly develop and execute menu items at one of the most creative restaurants in the city. He has strong experience as a manager. Most importantly, he is a passionate, curious and honest chef who approaches the kitchen as a student. We are very excited to work with Scott.
Although Manley's menu was more German in feel than they expected, or than the other menus which tended to suggest France and Italy at least as much, in the end the solid technique behind dishes such as a deeply flavorful chicken consommé or a brightly tart-sweet wild boar sauerbraten convinced them that his menu would have wide appeal.
In the meantime Thompson and Sussman are extremely happy with how making the dining public a part of the chef selection process worked out, and thank everyone who gave their comments at the restaurant and voted here on Grub Street. They also raised over $1000 for charities chosen by the six chefs and say there may be another bit of news coming out of the process in the next few days. Thompson and Sussman hope to open the weekend of December 15, and are planning to offer "training week" preview dinners to the public at a similar low price to the pop-up dinners for the week prior to the official opening.
You can see Scott Manley's job-winning dinner in the second half of this episode: