"It's a secret."
After a dinner at Casa Mun, I became fascinated with the experience of dining at a Closed Door Restaurant, a vaguely themed restaurant whose location was a secret. From divulging the address to the first step into a transformed space, to the rituals performed with an audience of mutual strangers, to a journey that engages the senses, there was a theatricality and purposefulness in the Closed Door Restaurant experience that really excited me.
It didn’t seem so far from the type of theater experience I seek to create.
Theater that haunts, that suspends, that's curated, immersive and sensorial.
So I began my interviews.
While I started and mainly interviewed owners and founders of closed door restaurants, I also found myself talking with chefs, artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs. The following is a collection of takeaways I gleaned from each interview.
1: Chef Mun: Casa Mun
- Create anticipation.
- You eat with your eyes first. The nose. And then the mouth.
- If you are to err, let it be too much good food.
- Each detail counts: “If he cares about the chair that much…”
- Good beef smells like milk.
2: Dan Perlman: Casa Saltshaker
- The tone is set from the first moment.
- Know the legality of your operation.
- BYOB leads to alcohol one-up-manship at the table. Provide the wine.
- Give them face time
- Ask for feedback.
3: Alan Epstein: The Office
- If it’s not working: make it better or let it go.
- Invite guests: it makes your space a forum for conversation.
- “We did Mondays 1/2 off. Take over Tuesdays. What’s our next problem? Wednesdays.”
- Make your worst your best. And just go down the list.
- Be honest about your mistakes.
4: El Señor Dueño: Almacen Bogensee
- If you like it, stay with it.
- You can work your way up.
- The experience of foreign in a restaurant.
- Making an exception wins customer loyalty.
- There is a destiny that comes to us.
5: Santiago Mymicopulo : Casa Coupage
- The soul of it is based in connecting with your people.
- To communicate the experience of wine. To curate an experience inside the mouth.
- The next step should be based on what people want.
- People are always searching for a new experience.
- With wine, and really anything and everything there are many many truths.
6: Juanita Posternak: Mis Raices
- It’s never to late to start.
- Find your niche.
- Details that match the essence.
- If you are generous they will be generous.
- Make it a home.
7: Jerónimo Grandi: Avitantes
- Start with what you love. That is the seed of your work.
- Art is strongest when within it we see a reflection of who we are. People connect as people.
- Take care of people within the experience.
- What you want, give it first.
- Pull at the word theater, pull at the meaning of all words.
8: Hollis Mickey
- The value of creating an accessible community.
- It is possible to charge less but earn more.
- Find what drives you artistically, follow that.
- Have practices.
- It’s okay to change what you do.
9: Nikki Froneman: Afro-Kitschen
- It’s okay to start small.
- Engage people’s curiosity.
- Don’t forget about identity. And build from that.
- Tell them stories about the food. About anything they engage with.
- Give them a gift to take away.
10: Samuel Warde: Sammy’s
- Go where there aren’t people like you.
- Try new things every time.
- “Pay what you can” confuses people.
- Don’t under estimate right time right place
- You never know what’s gonna be dealt to you, but you will have to roll with it.
11: Diego Felix : Colectivo Felix
- Live on all sides.
- Let it be different because it’s personal, not to just be different.
- Know that what you know is distinct and special and trust that.
- But make a wide big thing and trust that everyone will get it.
- It’s always a leap.
12: Julian Diaz: 878
- Make a thing that matches the climate.
- In starting: aim to make 20 people happy.
- Any given can be extraordinary.
- Know why you.
- Always be better than the expectations.
13: Abigail Machado : Almacen Secreto
- If it’s daily, make the days distinct.
- Create from what you know.
- Sometimes you will need to push. If so, push.
- It takes 10 years.
- You’re always starting fresh somehow. That means growth.
14: Alison Eakle: Comedy Central
- You get what you put into it.
- You need to want it harder than anyone else.
- Make your own opportunities.
- Trust what you’re doing and what you’re not doing. That tells you something.
- Do it now.
15: Meghan Lewis: Jueves a la Mesa y Buena Onda Yoga
- Don’t let yourself get intimidated out of doing something.
- If you need to wear blinders to get it done, wear the blinders.
- It’s okay to change things as they make more sense. No one will question you.
- No one notices the stop gaps.
- “All we need is patience and faith.”