How Ed Szymanski and Patricia Howard Are Constructing an Equitable Restaurant

In 2019, Ed Szymanski and Patricia Howard have been sitting on a bench in New York Metropolis’s West Village neighborhood after they shook palms and agreed to open Dame, a British fish and chips restaurant. The venture could be a fruits of their a few years within the restaurant trade — together with Howard at Crimson Gate Bakery, Szymanski at Cherry Level, and each on the Beatrice Inn, the place they met.

However on prime of being a celebration of the duo’s careers, Dame is a restaurant pushed by neighborhood. It started in February 2020 as a pop-up, pivoted this previous winter to a grocery retailer that also sells sought-after fish and chips twice every week, and can open this June as an English seafood restaurant in a brick-and-mortar area subsequent door. However Dame actually embraced its enterprise mannequin final summer time and fall when it hosted a weekly pop-up sequence wherein buddies took over the restaurant area, with proceeds benefiting varied charities. Howard, 29, and Szymanski, 27, see their restaurant as not solely theirs however one they’ll share with chef buddies, former dishwashers, and present staffers who need to check out their very own restaurant ideas or just prepare dinner for a crowd for simply sooner or later.

Eater: What does a typical day appear like for every of you?

Patricia Howard: We dwell collectively, and we simply obtained a brand new residence that’s a three-minute stroll away from Dame, which makes our lives rather a lot simpler. We signed a 10-year lease on the restaurant, and all of our eggs are going to be in that basket. It made extra sense to be as shut as attainable ought to something go incorrect or if we have to get our early morning deliveries. We normally are available to work collectively, and proper now, we’re working the grocery retailer, however we even have our build-out happening proper subsequent door to our present pop-up area. It’s very handy to have the ability to pop in and examine with the contractor, see what duties are on the day’s docket, after which go assist clients within the grocery retailer.

Ed Szymanski: Very first thing all the time is to see what the development zones are like, after which I prep mise en place for the grocery retailer, or if it’s Friday or Saturday, I prep for the fish and chips, which is a variety of french fries that get minimize and a variety of fish that needs to be damaged down.

On Fridays and Saturdays, we’ll do service till eight o’clock after which shut up the store. As a result of that is the final time in 10 years we’re going to have the evenings to ourselves, we’ve been going out to dinner. We attempt to assist eating places as a lot as attainable, but additionally, from a cooking perspective, you get a fantastic trade of concepts from consuming out.

How did your weekly visitor pop-up sequence begin?

ES: It was very natural. After we first began the Dame pop-up, I used to be on my own within the kitchen, working up and down the steps day by day as a result of the fuses stored blowing. It was a disaster, truthfully. A good friend of mine got here in sooner or later, and I used to be like, “Hey, do you need to prepare dinner on Sunday?” And he mentioned sure. He wasn’t planning on opening his personal restaurant, however he’s Galician and he needed to prepare dinner Galician meals, so he got here and cooked on this tiny little kitchen, which has one range and electrical deep fryers and that’s it. His occasion was an enormous success. We additionally used the occasion as a approach of elevating cash for charity, which was a giant a part of our enterprise mannequin. The following week, I obtained in contact with an outdated dishwasher of mine who, in the course of the pandemic, had been promoting tamales out of his residence in Bushwick, and I informed him he needed to do a pop-up.

There’s been a variety of discuss how persons are going to alter the restaurant trade and what might come out of the pandemic. We positively don’t have all of the solutions to that, however this gave the impression to be one factor we might do to be a part of a greater future — utilizing our platform as a West Village restaurant to spotlight different individuals who perhaps don’t have entry to the area or the community, media, all that stuff.

PH: It’s cool that we’ve supplied an incubator for individuals who need to open their very own restaurant, and so they can come right here and do a pop-up with us. However [Tio Rey and Nemi Calderon from the Tamales y Tacos pop-up] don’t have the objective of opening their very own restaurant. Simply to offer them a kitchen and a West Village restaurant on a preferred block and allow them to have the stage for a day, it was actually cool to see. It actually mattered rather a lot to them.

What recommendation would you give somebody who desires to do one thing much like what you’re doing?

ES: When you’ve labored as much as the purpose the place you personal a restaurant in New York, you have got folks whose tales haven’t been informed or who haven’t had the chance to share their [expertise], whether or not it’s a line prepare dinner or sous chef or dishwasher or server. We’re seeing a variety of these micro companies and other people baking out of their properties, subway automobile churros, that form of factor. There are many individuals who need to do pop-ups in your restaurant.

PH: We firmly consider that this pop-up has been an incredible launchpad for the way forward for Dame. For different folks making an attempt to open a restaurant, in the event that they’re younger or they don’t have a lot of a funds, I might positively advocate doing a pop-up first. We’ve created an viewers of regulars, and it’s a good way to get your story on the market. A pop-up is form of a take a look at run, and we did it for below $1,000. We purchased all of the out of doors planters and flowers, and we did it very scrappy.

A woman uses a laptop at a restaurant bar

A man stands next to a bowl of deboned fish in a restaurant kitchen

Fill within the clean: The previous 12 months and a half has been ________.

ES: Difficult is the very first thing that involves thoughts, however I don’t assume that’s truthful. It’s arduous to look again fondly, though on a private degree we’ve achieved rather a lot; there’s been an enormous quantity of struggling the world over. It feels incorrect to say it’s been good in any approach, however it’s been very eye-opening. We’ve come a great distance; we’ve grown rather a lot as folks and as a enterprise and as enterprise house owners. The private progress is definitely what led to this pop-up within the first place. We began Dame Summer season Membership as a approach of elevating cash for Black Lives Matter causes. We weren’t out protesting on a regular basis, however working a restaurant, we knew how to do this, so we figured we might do a pop-up to boost cash for charity.

What’s the most stunning factor you discovered both about yourselves or the trade this previous 12 months?

ES: Lots of people we spoke to informed us not to do that. Even pre-pandemic, a variety of restaurant house owners have been like, “By no means open a restaurant. It’s the worst factor on this planet. Don’t do that. You’re too younger.” It’s been stunning to me that it’s not that unhealthy. It’s positively powerful, however I don’t need different folks to get the impression that they need to by no means open a restaurant as a result of it’s so tough.

PH: There’s this notion on the market that opening eating places is unimaginable, and don’t do it till you’re 50, and also you want 1,000,000 {dollars}, however folks do open for cheaper and on a faster timeline. We don’t have a million-dollar funding but, however we’ve got just a few buyers, largely family and friends. We’re doing it on a decent funds, however it’s nonetheless going to be, we hope, a incredible restaurant. We’re making an attempt to provide you with a solution to bundle a how-to information to opening a restaurant, our recommendation on opening a restaurant on a funds.

ES: Tip 1: Open a restaurant that’s 500 sq. ft or much less.

What do you hope to perform on this subsequent 12 months or in these subsequent few months?

ES: Open our restaurant is primary. That’ll be the largest achievement of our lives thus far. Patricia talked about that we did tackle some buyers for this venture, and they’re all family and friends, so paying that again shortly could be a fairly vital objective to us. Internet hosting a bunch extra visitor chef dinners and Sunday sequence occasions — we’re already placing our roster collectively for this summer time. It will be good to finally win a Michelin star [but] in all probability not this 12 months. We’ll get to that. First I simply need to be cooking in shorts and working round outdoors and having enjoyable with our clients.

PH: If our opening staff continues to be with us in a 12 months, I believe that may be an enormous accomplishment on this trade. We goal to achieve success in creating a spot that our greatest buddies need to work at and might make sufficient cash at and have sufficient free time and sufficient trip. We need to create a spot the place everybody’s completely satisfied to work there. That’s a uncommon factor in kitchens today.

What are another methods you’re making change within the meals world?

ES: Paying folks extra equitably, giving our workers room to develop past the 4 partitions of the restaurant is a giant factor. We’re dedicated to opening extra eating places with our workers and incorporating them as companions in our enterprise, too, as a result of we’re very younger and we’ve got an extended solution to go and develop, and we wish our core staff to do it with us.

We’re bridging this factor between a restaurant being a spot to get dinner and a neighborhood area. We’re not going to be like a real neighborhood middle, however it could be good if we might use our area to proceed to boost cash for charity and causes that matter to us and spotlight different folks. I believe it actually betters the workers you have got, as a result of sous cooks get to see a unique facet of cooking, and so they can develop with that, too.

How can readers assist your work?

ES: Come eat on the restaurant.

PH: We attempt to be as clear as attainable on our Instagram, and proper now, we’re posting rather a lot in regards to the build-out course of, so positively follow us on Instagram. When you ever have a query about how we’re doing what we’re doing, or in the event you’re a chef and also you need to do a Sunday sequence with us, ship us a DM.

ES: And in the event you’re an investor studying this, give cash to everybody who did a pop-up at Dame. One factor that may be superb popping out of the pandemic is that if smaller eating places get an actual grip on the downtown New York eating scene once more. If eating places are crammed with younger and attention-grabbing operators, and the downtown New York cash provides folks the capital to do the appropriate tasks, that may construct a brand new and I believe significantly better restaurant neighborhood.

Clay Williams is a Brooklyn-based photographer specializing in meals, drinks, and occasions.

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