We just had a chat with Jason Neroni and found out more about his Porchetta breakup. the chef gave his notice on Monday, and then last night decided to walk out, with his blender, before service. Pastry Chef Mandy Brown was close behind him, as well as two cooks. “We were just basically done,” he said of himself and Brown, who has an offer from another restaurant and also works as a bartender at Heartland Brewery in Union Square. Today, two waiters, who both came to Porchetta from 71 Clinton Fresh Food, where Neroni was the last chef, gave their notice too.
Neroni elaborated on what he called “irreconcilable differences,” with owner Marco Rivero. According to the chef, Rivero wanted to readdress the menu, adding sandwiches, lowering the price-point, and opening for lunch. Neroni was in favor of none of those changes.
“I don’t agree with his business practices,” Neroni said. “It’s a great location, and if they can get someone good in there, maybe they’ll do well. I have no ill will against Porchetta, and I wish them the best, but I don’t think he really knows what he wants. I know what I want.”
Neroni said the restaurant was “practically giving food away” when he first took over the kitchen. “We started getting better product in there, all organic, and it was more expensive,” he said, “but we were still full. Then there were a couple of slow weeks, which is common in March when it’s still cold and it’s tax season, and [Rivero] wanted to revert [to the old approach].”
Neroni told us there had been ongoing animosity over food-costs, which Rivero claimed to be way too high. Neroni claimed his calculations were overly simple and inaccurate.
So, what’s next for the chef? Neroni told us he has no desire to jump into the helm at another restaurant too soon. “You’ll probably see me around, at some restaurants, helping out,” he said “but, I’m 30 years old, I’m getting married, and I want my own project. I need more involvement.”
He and his fiance, Jennifer Horan, have the first draft of a business plan in the works with some friends. “It’s far, far, far, far away,” he stressed, “but we’ve been devoting more attention to it and looking at some spaces.” If and when they find a spot they like, Neroni said it will be somewhere downtown, below 14th street.
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