The Couple Behind Thirty Acres Discuss Their Pending Shift to a Tasting Menu Format, Operating a Restaurant in Jersey City, and Culinary Inspirations[Editor’s Note: I’m delighted to welcome guest poster Lauren Bloomberg to Toqueland. Not sure how much or how often she may drop in but her first piece for us is a timely visit with Kevin and Alex Pemoulie of Jersey City’s Thirty Acres, that Lauren serendipitously had booked before the this week’s testing-menu news broke. Enjoy! – A.F.]
There are many things to consider when deciding whether to leave the non-creature comforts of a Manhattan apartment to jump the river to Jersey City. The most important in my mind: the quality of local restaurants. Which is why, upon taking an apartment-search break to dine at Thirty Acres, my-bullish-on-Jersey City husband questioned, “Can we still move here or have you blown your load?”
Thirty Acres is the first love child of Kevin and Alex Pemoulie, Momofuku alums (he was chef de cuisine at Noodle Bar and she ran financial operations). The second is their new daughter Viv (“seven months old is still new”) who joined us for a sunny afternoon chat about the restaurant scene in Jersey City, their inspirations (Paris and cookbooks that aren’t “self-strokey”), and the tasting-menu-only format they will debut on February 5th.
Bloomberg: You’ve been open for almost three years…what’s different now from when you opened three years ago?
Alex: Well, for one, we got our liquor license. We opened BYOB, which was a new experience for us.
Kevin: The menu hasn’t gotten a ton larger but, it’s definitely gotten more focused. And now we’re moving into a very different menu. I think that the comfort level of operating a restaurant, it’s not easy now, but it’s more comfortable. Alex and I mark opening day as one of the top three worst days of our life. It got easier but opening day, week, month were really tough.
Alex: Staffing has always been difficult. You know, there’s always a lot of turnover in restaurants and with a restaurant this size, it requires that we have a small staff; it’s felt a lot more–when somebody leaves that’s a third of your staff. The staff that we have now we are really comfortable with and they’re all really skilled and know the way we do things and it’s a good team.
Bloomberg: Coming from Manhattan, are there different challenges to finding staff in Jersey City?
Kevin: I don’t think so. It’s very hard to find anyone, both front and back of the house, with the certain skill set that you’re looking for. Momofuku certainly got enough attention to draw resumes, good or bad. I think the difference is that we maybe get more people just responding to Craigslist, but quality-wise it’s pretty much the same….