Emmer & Rye Team to Open Fire-Focused Restaurant in Austin Next Year
At the live-fire cooking concept, Hestia, chefs will take orders and serve dishes, blurring the lines between front and back of house.
It has only been three years since the opening of Austin staple Emmer & Rye, but the team behind it has some big new ideas. First came Henbit, a fast-casual breakfast and lunch spot in Fareground food hall. And now, the team—which includes chef Kevin Fink (a 2016 Food & Wine Best New Chef), chef Page Pressley, and pastry chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph—is announcing to Food & Wine that they’ll be opening a third concept in early 2019: Hestia.
Named after the Greek goddess of the hearth, the forthcoming restaurant will focus on live-fire cooking. “It will be equally as ambitious as Emmer & Rye, but in a totally different way,” Fink says.
For one, the chefs have decided to remove gas almost entirely from the Hestia kitchen. They plan to have one electric oven and use a bit of induction, but most of the cooking will be done over open fire, with grills or wood-burning ovens.
“Innovation comes from limitation, and that’s very much the goal here,” Pressley says. “The simple act of boiling water is something we’re gonna want to stay away from.”
Cooking methods aside, Hestia will offer something else unusual: the chefs will take orders, serve dishes, and answer questions about the menu. According to Fink and Pressley, this concept, which stems from the way sushi chefs often communicate with diners, will achieve three goals: provide more economic opportunity for cooks by including them in the tip pool; train up-and-coming cooks to feel comfortable walking into the dining room and interacting with guests; and enable a more open, organic dialogue between the person cooking the food and the person eating the food.
While there will be employees who operate specific front-of-house or back-of-house jobs, like bartenders or dishwashers, Fink says, “Ultimately, the goal is to get away from that separation.”
Restaurateurs across the world have experimented with different ways of placing a higher value on staff while boosting the overall restaurant experience—most notably Danny Meyer’s Hospitality Included policy at Union Square Hospitality Group. Yet what’s different about Hestia’s approach is that it’s all happening behind the scenes.
“It doesn’t seem different to a diner,” Fink says. “You tip in the same way that you would. We’re not asking you to understand anything about what we’re doing about our prices. Because that’s not what we want people to get choked up on. We want people to think about the amazing experience that they had, then tell their friends about how special it was.”