DJ Fernandes of Tuck Shop, Part 2

Categories: Chef Chat
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Catherine Slye, New Times
Today we've got the second half of our chat with Tuck Shop owner DJ Fernandes. Yesterday he explained how he came up with the concept for his debut restaurant venture in the heart of the Coronado District. Today he'll be sharing plans for his newly acquired space next-door and discussing his take on Tuck Shop's place in the culinary scene.

How involved were you personally in the menu development for Tuck Shop?

The menu was developed by Jessica Ruiz and me. We came up with the menu and we continuously drive the menu conceptually and then we work with the guys in the restaurant--our GM John and the kitchen staff--and we work specifically with a guy named Mitch Hoverman, and he is a classically trained chef. So we all sit around and we brainstorm ideas and he commercially implements the recipes for those ideas that the guys in the kitchen deftly execute. So it's a really fun, creative collaboration.

That sounds like a pretty unique format.

I don't know...I think it's definitely different than a typical chef-driven restaurant where there's "a guy" who is theoretically doing a lot of the kitchen management and whatnot. But I don't think that's any different than a lot of Mom and Pop places. There's no executive chef there. There are just the people that work in the kitchen. So it's typical in terms of that. People always want to have some sort of icon to connect with a restaurant--I guess I can be that person for today's purposes--but that doesn't diminish the roles of the guys in the kitchen and John and Jessica. I just like to have it sort of feel like everyone get's credit. People want to place things neatly in their categories and boxes and it doesn't have to be that way. I think it's ok.

So what are you looking to do in the new space?

The new space is going to be breakfast and lunch in terms of meals that we're going to serve. There's not going to be a kitchen per say in the space. We're going to use the existing infrastructure at Tuck Shop to do a lot of the "heavy lifting" so that we can bring over product we've prepared next door, thereby not have to really trick that small building out with big hoods and ventilation systems and whatnot. So it really helps that these two things are going to feed off one another. It will be a smaller menu like we do at Tuck Shop so a bunch of really finely crafted items for breakfast and lunch. Then in the evening we are going to do a more snacks--if you want to have dinner, you'd have dinner at Tuck Shop, and if you want to have snacks and a glass of wine, you can do that next door.

When you're working on this new project, do you approach it design-wise first or more from a restaurateur point of view?

The best part about it is that it all kind of a happens simultaneously so its not like alright today I'm going to take off my architect hat and put on my restaurant guy hat. Both hats are on at the same time, which I think is the fun part.

So it seems that the concept is very dependent on the space.

I think that that's critical. So many people ask me the question, "Do you have a new restaurant concept?" And you know, there are a couple that are kicking around in there...but it's critical where it is before I can even consider what it is. If you have it the other way around, I don't even understand how you can go do it.

Tomorrow we'll have DJ's recipe for a pot roast you can make in just one hour!

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