Over the past year or two, we in the Triangle have experienced a mini-boom in the number of chef-owned restaurants. Poole’s, Watt’s Grocery, Piedmont, Rue Cler, Bonne Soiree, and others. To the foodies of the world (and I include myself in that group), one gets a great buzz to eat at a chef-owned restaurant in the first few days after it’s opened. Chef-owned establishments are considered ultra-hip, and I even try to get to know the chefs, because that just makes me hip, too. Heh.
But when a new restaurant opens that isn’t owned by a chef, it just doesn’t get the same press. And I’m as guilty as anyone in that regard. I really started to understand my own bias when it came to Herons restaurant in the Umstead Hotel. I found myself unenthusiastic because Herons was, well, a hotel restaurant. And with The Mint just opening in downtown Raleigh, I certainly didn’t welcome it with much enthusiasm and even told some friends that I really didn’t have much interest in trying it. Was that lack of fervor due to its size, its controversial connections with the city of Raleigh, the menu, or because it seemed to be a place owned by a faceless investment group rather than a known chef? Would I have given as much attention to The Pit if it were just Greg Hatem’s company opening it, without the involvement of Ed Mitchell? Read the rest of this entry »