On New Year's Eve, the major players at Gather Restaurant in Berkeley (Ari Derfel, Eric Fenster, chef Sean Baker) sealed the deal to take over the closed Marbella space on Polk Street. Today chef Baker calls in to share what he can about the concept in store. Abueg Morris Architects will be redesigning most of the space, adding new countertops and tables, while the prominent central bar structure will remain intact. Since it's still early in the game, Baker hasn't nailed down the new menu format. That said, he knows the smaller, 64-seat scale of the space will enable a more detail-oriented bill of fare, compared with what he serves to roughly 380 covers per night in Berkeley.
To this end, Baker says he's "putting a lot of money into the kitchen." They'll continue their whole animal program: sourcing 90% of meats whole. As one would expect, Baker will also continue his devout focus on vegetables. The concept behind one of Gather's most popular dishes: the vegan charcuterie, will be fleshed out in vegetable-focused, creative small plates. Baker will evolve the fermenting and vinegar-and miso-making programs he's started in-house at Gather, and he'll be able to add house-cured meats to the menu for the first time in years.
Consultant sommelier Michael Ireland (French Laundry, Meadowood) will oversee the cocktail and wine programs. Meanwhile, the team is in the process of hiring on new chef de cuisines for both the new restaurant and Gather. Naturally, Baker will spend most of the new business' first year on Polk Street. Between this new concept en route, and a young marriage to his wife Renee, 2013 is looking to be a big year for Baker. The team has a hopeful opening slated for this summer, and the name of the restaurant is still TBD.
· Gather team finalizes deal for Polk Street location [ISSF]
· All Gather Coverage [~ ESF ~]