Ryan Tate, formerly of Savoy and Le Restaurant, May Have Found Finally the Perfect Home at Blenheim
NEW YORK CITY — Chefs’ professional fates can turn in an instant. A restaurant’s shuttering can leave them scrounging for work; a sudden opening or bit of serendipity can prove the first step in a new chapter.
Case in point: Ryan Tate, who honchoed the kitchen at the recently departed Le Restaurant in Tribeca, where he served a daily set tasting menu and garnered stars (one from Michelin, two from the New York Times), experienced both ends of that equation. Le Restaurant’s demise was of the slow, painful variety: Perched on the fringe of Tribeca, despite critical attention (among others, Gael Greene also found much to like there), Tate and owner Kyle Wittels (the two also collaborated on the restaurant’s adjacent sister business, the marketplace and cafe All Good Things), never quite found the customer mass required to keep the joint open. And so, as June crawled to a close, they made the painful decision to shut it down, and Tate was soon to be a gun for hire … but before he’d served his last meal, another door had opened.
Maybe it was karma: Tate had been committed to cook at Pig Mountain–the upstate “pig roast and veggie fest”–later this month, but with no benefactor, he would have had to go out of pocket for ingredients and transportation, and wasn’t in a position to shell out the necessary coin. So he did the responsible thing and called producer Heather Carlucci to explain the situation as soon as possible. The call set off a domino effect: Carlucci told him that the chef of Blenheim had just left two days earlier, at which point Tate called former colleague Jonathan Russell, who happened to be the beverage director at the West Village establishment. (Talk about quick twists of fate: original chef Justin Hilbert was out of Blenheim in a New York minute, owing to what the owners termed “irreconcilable differences.” The shift forced the restaurant to temporarily close after less than a month in business.)
Within hours, Tate was on the phone with Blenheim co-owner Morten Sohlberg, who also owns Blenheim Hill Farm, which supplies the restaurant with a steady flow of fresh ingredients, and Smörgås Chef restaurants with his wife and partner Min Ye. Continuing the real life fast forward, Sohlberg and Ye dined at Le Restaurant that very night. It was the second to last service, with a scant six souls in the dining room, two in the kitchen, and a solitary server soldiering back and forth between them. But the couple were able to see past the funereal setting and were blissed out by the food. …