Former “Broadway East” Chef Tells His Side

Cq101_GavinMills_s4x3_tz A few weeks ago we linked to a "Grub Street" item about the departure of chef Gavin Mills from "Broadway East." It turns out Mills was not at all pleased with the way the restaurant's managing partner, Laurie Tomasino, characterized his departure. 

“Gavin is a great chef, but he’s at a stage of his career where he
wants to make a mark — say, from a three-star review — but he didn’t
have the experience or business savvy to know there was a serious
disconnect between the food and the scene.” Tomasino says the
restaurant wanted Mills to change the menu more often — “We weren’t
asking him to dumb down the food but to broaden his horizons and bring
new, affordable ideas to the table in an effort to reach the
neighborhood.” She says she’s currently looking for a great chef who’ll
appreciate the venue’s melding of art, music, and food (maybe Don Pasta?).

Then, several days ago, there was this rather strongly worded rebuttal (read it in full here) left in our comments section:

"…that's bs. Broadway East has had 6 chefs, the first of which left
before the restaurant opened… when he put his notice in, he was not asked to leave in
any way, his entire kitchen staff including the assistant manager left
too. Broadway East is a sinking ship that is being run by people who
have absolutely no clue about the restaurant industry."

Turns out, the author was Mills' wife. We contacted Gavin, who's relocated to California, for a fuller explanation. He was fairly circumspect but did not take too kindly to the suggestion that he lacked "experience or business savvy." Mills said he was lured from the highly regarded "Mas Farmhouse," in the West Village, with the promise that he would have the freedom to create a "farm fresh," inventive menu. He was asked to change the menu more than once, and he was open to that. But Mills says he was commited to the idea of "fine dining" and balked at the suggestion from the owners that he serve up "pizzas and banana splits."

We also discussed the restaurant's struggle to balance its status as a hot nightlife destination, while also appealing to people in the neighborhood. Broadway East's owners apparently concluded the food and the prices were too "high end" for, what Mills called, "the deep Lower East Side."  He's now searching for a new job in California. He's only been looking for a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, as Grub Street reported, Broadway East continues to look for a new chef. Patricia Yeo (formerly of Sapa and Monkey Bar) is helping out in the interim.

Donnybrook Debuts Food Menu

IMG_0530 We stopped by Donnybrook, the semi-new Irish pub on Clinton Street last weekend to try out their brand new brunch.  The bar was opened a few months ago by the team behind Lucky Jack's on Orchard Street, Meghan and Diarmuid Joye and Declan Collins.

It's a small but well conceived and executed menu. An Irish breakfast, sausage, bacon, black pudding, scrambled eggs and beans. "Union Hall fish pie," cod and shrimp in a béchamel sauce with leeks and a cheddar crust. A ham, tomato and chedder pressed sandwich. And very fresh oysters on the half shell.

Meghan told us they planned to serve a more limited menu during the week — sandwiches and a few other items. Donnybrook features a beautiful, dark wood bar constructed by an Irish carpenter, no less. The long tables were made of salvaged wood from the Bronx Republican Club. There's also vintage wallpaper and lighting fixtures. Donnybrook is right in the heart of the Lower East Side bar scene, but Meghan says the place is meant to be a neighborhood hangout.

She and her partners worked at a few different East Village Irish bars, saved their pennies and opened Lucky Jack's four years ago. Meghan told us they're weathering the recession fairly well. While we were there last Sunday, people seemed to be discovering the new brunch spot – perhaps it was the smell of bacon wafting out the open windows.

Meghan also happens to be a member of Community Board 3, assigned to the committee that recommends to the State Liquor Authority which bars and restaurants should get licenses. Noting that she was not on the board when the Donnybrook license was considered, Meghan told us she thinks it's important to have someone on the committee with her perspective. She says it's important to her to balance community concerns about quality of life while supporting restaurants and bars trying to survive in the economic downturn.

Donnybrook's weekend brunch is offered from noon to 5. They're located at the corner of Clinton and Stanton.

The Fight for 365 Grand Street

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The food blogs are having a wonderful time poking fun at the squabbling over the fate of the old “Isabella’s Oven” location at 365 Grand Street. Neighborhood message boards lit up after last week’s controversial meeting of Community Board 3’s liquor licensing committee. Jesse Hartman’s proposal for an Italian restaurant in the shadow of the Seward Park Co-op with a full bar and an enclosed backyard was opposed by three residents toting petitions with over a hundred signatures. Over the weekend there were rumors that the Seward Park Housing Corp., the landlord, had decided to go with another applicant, an Asian fusion restaurant. But this morning Seward Park General Manager Frank Durant told us “there is no signed lease in place with anyone.”

Some residents expressed concerns about the full bar Hartman wants to operate and the closing time (4am). But most of the comments at the meeting and on the message boards express worries over late night noise wafting from the garden up to the apartments above. Durant said,“We will make sure that our residents and neighbors are protected from any disturbances. If that means having a sound proof enclosure or have lease provisions in place we will.”  He added, “the Board and Charles Greenthal Management will do whatever is necessary to make (sure) whomever leases that store (will) be able to succeed and be welcomed by the neighborhood.

At the community board meeting, Hartman agreed to withdraw his proposal in order to reach an agreement with opponents of “Grand Park.” He’s been having discussions since then with both supporters and opponents of the restaurant.  Today he met with an architect who has agreed to draw up sketches for a sound proofed backyard enclosure.

Food Notes: Daniel on the Bowery, Broadway East

DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Daniel Boulud's bistro on the Bowery opens in preview mode this weekend. Grub Street has a few details here. They also have the scoop on the departure of Broadway East's chef, Gavin Mills Managing partner Laurie Tomasino explained:

Gavin is a great chef, but he’s at a stage of his career where he
wants to make a mark — say, from a three-star review — but he didn’t
have the experience or business savvy to know there was a serious
disconnect between the food and the scene.” Tomasino says the
restaurant wanted Mills to change the menu more often — “We weren’t
asking him to dumb down the food but to broaden his horizons and bring
new, affordable ideas to the table in an effort to reach the
neighborhood.”