Journalist and narrative nonfiction author Stabiner (Getting In, 2010, etc.) closely tracks a talented, ambitious chef as he opens his first restaurant in New York.
When Jonah Miller made the decision to quit his job and open his first restaurant, he had already worked at a number of prestigious restaurants in the city. He began at 14 as an intern at Chanterelle and later worked in the kitchen at the famed Gramercy Tavern and as a sous chef at Maialino, along the way earning an enviable reputation within the highly competitive NYC food scene and being named to the 30-under-30 lists at both Forbes and Zagat. As expected, opening a restaurant in New York proved extremely difficult, with the risk of failure at every turn. Stabiner follows Jonah at each step in his decision-making, from the 18-month planning stage through his first year of business, building small narrative dramas as each event unfolds. With meticulous detail, perhaps too much for some readers, she chronicles his challenges finding investors, choosing a location, building out the space, and hiring, maintaining, and occasionally losing staff. Would the restaurant receive a coveted review from the New York Times? Would Jonah eventually be granted a full liquor license? After settling on a location in the East Village, Josh opened Huertas, a restaurant serving Basque-influenced cuisine, in 2014. “Jonah had a hunch that the city needed the kind of Spanish food he wanted to make, an accessible cuisine that still had novelty going for it,” writes the author. “He had to make Huertas work; at twenty-five, Jonah had narrowed his options to one. Being a chef, running his own restaurant and from there, a group of them, was all he wanted to do, and what he was trained to do.”
A thoughtfully observed study of what it takes to open a successful restaurant in the most competitive marketplace in the world.