Can Caffe Boa Survive Without Its Celeb Chef?

Categories: Laudig

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It was big news the other day when chef Payton Curry -- one of the Valley's better known culinary rock stars, who even has groupies -- announced his departure from Caffe Boa/Boa Bistro. It got a lot of people gabbing about how well Boa would fare in his wake.

Can the place survive without its celeb chef?

So far, so good, according to owner Jay Wisniewski, who says "business is rockin' right now."

It turns out, Curry left his post in good hands. Sous chefs Matt Smith and Nick Sheley have "been under his wing for three years," Wisniewski says, coming to Caffe Boa from Digestif. Now, they'll be running the show.

A press release from Caffe Boa pimped "immediate changes to the menu, including a new 'classics' section featuring Caffe Boa's all-time most popular items (including Shrimp Adriatico, Voodoo Penne, Heirloom tomato Bruschetta, Washington Mussels." It came across like the restaurant was reverting to some older version of itself, from the pre-Curry era.

But it turns out that those dishes have been on the menu all along. Wisniewski says it's just "more traditional-sounding," and that the restaurant is just emphasizing Italian cuisine more than before. He says he loved Curry's cooking, but admitted that Curry did bring more California cuisine to the menu. (Here are the new menus:  Caffe Boa lunch menu.docx  Caffe Boa dinner menu.docx)

When Curry first came on board, the celeb chef thing sort of backfired. "Initially people were freaked out. He was an easy target for people to knock down," Wisniewski says. "It's human nature."

Is this a lesson that change isn't always good?

Not really. Although Boa lost a little business at first, after several months (and surviving the summer) the restaurant ultimately built a bigger base of regulars. And even though people complained about prices being higher as a result of Curry's starpower, Wisniewski says he looked back at old menus and saw that prices had actually gone down under Curry's leadership.

Now, under Smith and Sheley, things won't be drastically different than before -- they'll still be making homemade charcuterie and the like, which they've done since the Digestif days -- although there will be more pastas and some old faves such as lasagna and osso bucco.

And who knows? Maybe the two young chefs are the next generation of rock stars. I suspect Curry wouldn't have it any other way.

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10 comments
Rbnpostal
Rbnpostal

i think this will be a good time to see matt smith shine.with his great personality.matt and nick will do a good job.

Qwerty
Qwerty

Matt is a great person, and he will shine.

Foodsamore
Foodsamore

Curry is a Joke! He cant keep a job, and cant cook, Boa in Tempe has struggled with curry, they cant pay their bills, tried to expand, but the only one worth going to is their ahwatukee one, different owner of course.

Qwerty7
Qwerty7

i think you pretty much nailed part of this on the head. DIFFERENT OWNER in ahwaukee....Struggles of not paying bills is the owner, not the Chef. think about it....

Hotchkiss
Hotchkiss

Can Caffe Boa survive? REALLY? This restaurant is older than Chef Payton is. Who, by the way hasn't been able to keep a job from the sounds of it. Think about it. A year at Digestif. A year at Caffe Boa. If you went to your next job and your resume read like that the HR person would ask you why. Maybe that's the question you should be asking. Why can't Curry keep a job?

Qwerty7
Qwerty7

and also the area of Southbridge has lost another resturant. Metro Brasserie....

Qwerty7
Qwerty7

A restuarant closing, i.e. Digestif, and Curry LEAVING Boa, does not mean that Curry cannot keep a job. He has been employed and has never been fired.... so your stance is BS.... read people....it's easy..

confused
confused

Can someone please tell me why we care about this guy? The NT and AZrep tell us he's famous over and over again. But Digestif was pretty meh, and I don't know anybody that raved about Boa during his tenure. So what gives? He must have pictures of Howard and Michele in a compromising position.

Qwerty7
Qwerty7

you read the article right? must care..

chaka chaka
chaka chaka

remember when it was on Mill and they grilled chicken out side next to your table

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