Fine Dining Chefs Add Special Touch to Midscale Restaurants

Fine Dining Chefs Add Special Touch to Midscale Restaurants

Food & Drink

Fine Dining Chefs Add Special Touch to Midscale Restaurants


By Cari Martens

The crunch of economic hard times has led some upscale chefs to seek employment—or at least consulting fees—from casual dining restaurants and other lower ticket eateries.

As reported by Pamela Parsegian in “Nation’s Restaurant News“, one of those affected was Craig Shelton, a celebrated chef whose restaurant The Ryland in Whitehouse, N.J., closed its doors few months back. Now the chef advises Constantine Katsifis’ East Windsor, N.J.-based Americana Hospitality Group, which operates three mid-scale diners and a catering facility.

The result, Katsifis told NRN, has been a 10 percent bump in gross sales at his Skylark Fine Diner and Lounge.

Other high-dollar chefs lending expertise to their mid-tier brethren include—

⋅ Mark Miller, best-known for Coyote Café in Santa Fe, and the Red Sage in Washington, D.C., who’s now bringing added culinary expertise to Pei Wei Asian Diner, a 172-unit fast casual spin-off of P.F. Chang’s.

⋅ Anita Lo is chef-owner of Michelin star-rated restaurant Annisa in New York, which is being rebuilt after a fire. Lo has entered into a partnership with Kenny Lao of the Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, also in New York, which is looking to expand beyond its single store and food truck.

⋅ Tyler Florence has brought his name and menu expertise to Applebee’s, as has Jasper White with Legal Seafoods.

As the Great Recession lingers on, and more white tablecloth eateries continue to struggle, we can expect to see more of these kinds of cross-pollinating partnerships. And for the mid-tier players, at least, we think it’s a good thing.

Lots of mid-scale chains are scuffling too, cutting back R&D and culinary staff. Reaching out to freelancing chefs who may be more available as consultants these days, offers a cost-effective alternative.

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