After four years of the current Central Kitchen, chef/owner Thomas McNaughton thinks it’s time for a makeover. On Saturday, July 9, Central Kitchen will close for just under two weeks to remodel and slightly reconcept, McNaughton will announce in a letter (in full below) sent to friends, family, and industry later today. “I want to redefine Central Kitchen to what I’ve always wanted it to be: an exceptional, rowdy neighborhood restaurant,” McNaughton told Eater. “When we opened, there was so much hype around Central Kitchen as an uber fine dining restaurant — and we reaffirmed that with a lot of tweezer action in the very beginning — but that was never the intention.”
McNaughton is taking this time to not only make overdue physical changes to the restaurant, like upgrade the bathrooms, redo the entryway, paint the walls, get new tables, and remodel the kitchen, but also to create the ultimate version of what he thinks Central Kitchen can be. “I firmly believe that as a more mature restaurant operator and a more mature chef, this is how we would open up Central Kitchen in 2016,” McNaughton said. “Just with all the things we messed up, all the things we did great, and everything in between.”
"I want to redefine Central Kitchen to what I've always wanted it to be: an exceptional, rowdy neighborhood restaurant."
The new menu, which will be released next week, will have four distinct sections: raw, cured, fermented, and smoked items; vegetables; pastas and breads; and meats and fish from the brand-new wood-burning hearth. It will all be meant to be communal, and as Central Kitchen always has, shine a spotlight on the Bay Area’s ever-changing produce.
The remodel comes at an interesting time for the restaurant; just four months ago SF Chronicle critic Michael Bauer reduced its rating to two stars, saying he thought the quality had gone down. But McNaughton insists that’s not the reason for this pivot. “I have much more confidence in this restaurant as a whole than to make a knee-jerk reaction because of the review. We’re not building the restaurant for one person; we’re building it for the populace,” he said. “The business of the business has never been so healthy, which allows us to make these decisions. It’s not, ‘Oh shit, we’re losing money.’ It’s to be able to have a platform to stand on to say, ‘This is exactly what we want to do.’”
Central Kitchen’s last day — for now — is next Saturday, July 9. Stay tuned for the new menus.