This week we’re swapping our usual “Meet a Mom” interview for a “Meet a Dad”, and profiling Chef Brian Lewis! He just announced he’ll be opening The Cottage at 49 Greenwich Avenue later this year, adding it to his other popular eateries which include The Cottage in Westport and OKO in Westport and Rye. Chef Lewis was raised in nearby Westchester, and has gained recognition at a national level, including as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award in 2018, as Founding Executive Chef at The Bedford Post Inn, and with television appearances including The Martha Stewart Show, Beat Bobby Flay & TODAY. At home, though, he is simply known as Dad to twin seven-year-old boys. We asked Chef Lewis to share some details about The Cottage Greenwich, launching a restaurant during a pandemic, balancing chef and Dad life, and more.
Congratulations on your upcoming new restaurant opening, The Cottage Greenwich! We’re thrilled to have a new hotspot coming to The Ave. Can you please tell us a bit about it, and how it will compare to the sister restaurant in Westport?
Thank you so much and we are over the moon excited for the opportunity to bring The Cottage to Greenwich! It is very important that The Cottage in Greenwich has a true connection to The Cottage Westport’s overall design and ambiance, yet with distinct design elements which will complement the Greenwich Avenue space and surrounding environment. Our designer and architect were all behind the great work at The Cottage Westport and we will keep many of the signature elements and offer several new features and design elements.
Our cuisine, beverage program and hospitality will continue to be a heartfelt expression as we continue to develop our craft and follow our passions and inspiration.
Why did you choose Greenwich to open your next restaurant, and this spot in particular?
I could not be happier with the fact that we found such an amazing location and building to showcase The Cottage in Greenwich.
The choice to pursue opening our next Cottage in Greenwich was a simple and rather intuitive one. I had the wonderful experience of living in Greenwich briefly for one year when I moved back home to be the Chef of The Bedford Post Inn. I really loved the town, with the sophistication of Madison Avenue and its vibrant culinary scene, as well as its family driven community, I have always felt that Greenwich would be a perfect setting to showcase my cuisine of The Cottage. This January, my team and I met to discuss if we were ready to make the leap and pursue our next Cottage. As soon as we started the conversation in January and after one of the most challenging years of all of our lives, my team and I were over the top with excitement to hit the ground running in search of the location.
There was only one town that ever even came up in the conversation, Greenwich!
I immediately reached out to my broker and within 5 weeks of hitting the pavement daily, we met the owner of the building and it was a real “meant to be” transaction. The location on the top of the Avenue was exactly where I wanted to be, the store front is beautiful, the interior will be able to transform to The Cottage aesthetic beautifully, and we will be able to gain about 18 more seats than Westport and a bit more room in our kitchen. The response to our coming to Greenwich has been overwhelmingly supportive and I can’t wait to start cooking here!
Another great bonus is being right next door to my favorite breakfast and lunch restaurant, The Granola Bar. I have had the pleasure of becoming good friends with Dana and Julie, the owners, and I am thrilled to be next door neighbors with them in Greenwich!
We love Granola Bar and Dana and Julie too! What are some of your favorite dishes from The Cottage that will be available in Greenwich?
While The Cottage Greenwich will certainly feature some of The Cottage Classics, such as Wagyu Beef Brisket Bao Buns, Spicy Squid and Broccoli, Duck Fried Rice and The Cottage Burger, we will be creating and cooking our hearts out with entirely new dishes unique to The Cottage in Greenwich. My love for hand crafted pasta, daily made breads for our many style of savory toasts such as The Buttered Crab Toast Bearnaise or Smoked Goat’s Cheese and Radish on House Seeded Rye are just a few of the menu items we are thinking right now. Deeply rooted in the seasons and a strong presence of beautifully composed vegetable dishes will also be center stage, such as Harissa Roasted Carrots with Medjool dates and sunflower crunch and Little Gem Lettuces with lovage dressing and puffed rice.
Who will this restaurant appeal to?
Our menu, hospitality and ambience will really appeal to many different audiences for dinner, a casual burger and salad at the Bar with a friend or of course a gussied up date night has always been a big draw, as well as larger groups of friends, of all ages, simply feasting away and getting lost in the food, wine and friendships.
How have you, as a business owner, weathered COVID?
I am so incredibly grateful for how well my staff has all risen to the challenges that COVID presented us all with. Our mantra from the beginning for all of my restaurants was simply “Adapt and Overcome.” I believe that every single employee within my company, Full House Hospitality Group, has demonstrated the spirit, work ethic and character which has helped pull us all through these incredibly challenging times. It has been a real honor and my good fortune to have such a loyal and dedicated staff of over 75 team members over three restaurants. Through the shut down and the re-opening, everyone has contributed so much individually with their hard work, thoughtfulness toward the safety of each other and our guests, and compassion for taking care of each other.
Can you please tell us a bit about your family?
I am incredibly lucky and blessed for Jude and Jax, my amazing twin seven year-old boys. We live in Wilton and they are every bit boys and love sports, bike riding, their many friends, mud, worms, more mud, playing pranks on me, and they of course adore their Mom, Dana, my ex-wife, who I happily co-parent the boys together with.
I, like so many, have had the wonderful gift of more time with them during COVID and we have taken the fullest advantage of this time together (sorry not a reference to home schooling!). I taught the boys to ride bikes in the beginning of COVID and we have tackled every trail we can find together since!
Are your kids good eaters, and if you so, how have you encouraged that?
Jude is really into food, while Jax is really into magic, yet they can’t seem to make their dinner disappear! They really do love to bake with me and of course, summer barbecues are an all-time favorite of theirs. I take them to OKO and The Cottage every week and Jude is really adventurous, loves sushi and even uni, while Jax is more into the Chicken Teriyaki Bento Box. Both boys absolutely love their Cottage Burger and Hot Fudge Sundae at The Cottage, but then again, so do I!
What’s one thing that surprised you about yourself as a dad?
I always knew that I would love being a Dad, but really had no idea how much love I was capable of having for these crazy little humans – it doesn’t even make sense how great and rewarding it is to be their Dad!
I was always fearful that my career would be a challenge and compromise my time with my children. The reality is that I have opened going-on four restaurants since the boys were born and I have been able to balance both high wire acts of my career and being a Dad of twin boys with more joy than I ever could have ever wished for. Being a Dad is the greatest gift I have ever known and my career as a Chef and restaurateur has only grown with the boys. They love being part of it all and I always make sure to have the “final say” before we finalize any new restaurant.
What are you looking forward to most in terms of “post-COVID” life – any fun plans with your kids?
ABSOLUTELY!! I can’t wait to walk safely with no mask and see all of the happy smiles around us right there on Greenwich Avenue!
The boys and I have a trip to visit my two best friends this Summer in California for a long overdue meeting with their families, both have children the same age. We are planning to drive from San Francisco to LA in a big RV and see lots of amazing people and places along the way.