Noah Bernamoff Talks About Mile End, and What's Next for Mile End
A little more than a year after opening Mile End in Boerum Hill, Noah Bernamoff is a busy, busy guy. In addition to the day-to-day duties of filling the mouths of smoked-meat fanatics, Bernamoff fills his hours working on new products and recipes and planning his second restaurant, which will most likely be located somewhere beneath 14th Street.
While Bernamoff preferred not to say too much about his aforementioned wholesaling plans -- "my big thing all along has been insisting that we develop products that can stand on their own two feet, that can exist in and of themselves outside of how we serve them in the restaurant," he told us -- he was happy to talk about what's next for Mile End. Tune in tomorrow for the second half of the conversation.
What's a typical day like for you these days?
A typical day is usually checking into the restaurant in the morning and making sure it has everything it needs. Then I'll usually go back to my office, which is near the production space, and work. There's a few hours every day of business administration, which I used to do in the middle of the night when I was working on the line. And there's brainstorming. Up until mid-December, I realized I hadn't spent time on that because I was literally still working in the restaurant six days a week, doing 10-hour shifts. I realized that there is no way this business will ever grow if I remain tied to the kitchen. And so with Aaron Israel coming on board in November, it initiated that transition. At this point as our chef, he has full responsibility to supervise food and the cooks and the kitchen.
Because of him, I'm really able to consider those aspects of the business that really no one else is in a position to consider. My role now is a little bit more like business owner than cook. I never really thought of myself -- I know everyone likes to call me a chef, but I'm not a chef. I love to cook and I think I have a knack for cooking for someone who doesn't have the experience and training of someone who has that title. I definitely came up with the original menus, but, when it comes down to it, I've always thought of myself as head cook and business owner, and now I'm trying to take on the responsibilities of a business owner, because they're growing.
And soon those responsibilities are going to include a second restaurant, no?
We are trying to get a second shop open, but as far as timeline, I really don't know. It's still pretty vague. Definitely it will be within the year; we'll have a second shop open in 2011. Whether that's summer, late summer, or fall still really needs to be determined, but we definitely recognize that we can serve more people. We could be positioned within the city in a place more advantageous for business than a side street tucked away in Brooklyn. [Laughs.]
I opened up on Hoyt Street under the belief that it was just as likely to fail as it was to succeed. The response has been so positive and reinforcing that we're hoping to go to a next step with more confidence and a little better understanding of what works and what doesn't work, and how can we best serve customers and not run out [of food] and have a takeout system that works. [Laughs.] Maybe it won't have seats and we'll make it more of a takeout spot. Where would you like it to be?
I've always said that, ideally, it would be [somewhere] as busy at midnight as we are right now at Hoyt at noon or 1 in the afternoon, so use your imagination. East Village, West Village, Nolita, or Chinatown. We're trying to focus below 14th Street. Ultimately it comes down to the space and how it fits with our conceptual design, whether it's eat-in or take-out, or if there's a retail component. Ultimately, we're not being picky. It's silly to be picky.
Why go to Manhattan, rather than someplace like Williamsburg, where it seems like half of Manhattan is going?
I already have a place in Brooklyn. We have explored Williamsburg; maybe it's in the cards, maybe it's not. Maybe it's the next one or the one after the next one. My intuition is telling me that Manhattan is a better decision.
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