Grand Fare 2.0: Govt Chef, opening particulars for the revamped Oakland grocery retailer
With its elegant Parisian outdoor terrace and a hybrid market-restaurant concept in the style of a market hall with a raw food bar, flower shop and coffee and pastry service in a renovated Airstream trailer Grand Fare Market was one of the zippiest and most ambitious food projects Oakland has hit in years.
It was all the more shocking with the owner Doug WashingtonCiting an unsustainable business model, operations ceased abruptly in November less than two months after the big fanfare started on Grand Avenue. It seemed like a no-brainer whether the closure was temporary or permanent, but in March it was finally revealed that Grand Fare would indeed return.
Now Washington is revealing some reboot details, including two big ones:
1) The rough reopening date: Sometime in June.
2) The New Chef / Director of Food Operations: Veteran Bay Area Executive Chef and Restaurant Advisor Chris Fernandezwhose résumé includes stays in the kitchen at Oliveto, Poggio and Terrapin Crossroads.
What exactly has Washington been working on to ensure the second integration of Grand Fare Sticks? Mostly simplification, he says, especially in the context of what many thought was a confusing layout. Instead of several satellite stations for oysters, wine, pastries, groceries and the till, customers now order almost all groceries and pay for them on a central island.
“I think there were certain parts that confused people,” he says. “With the layout and the process, it was like: where are you going? How does this work? We had to simplify … Business was going great, it wasn’t: we just couldn’t do what we wanted with the way it was set up. We just couldn’t. “
Another focus, Washington adds, will be to put the food at the center of people’s faces.
“It’s important that more food is on display for people,” he says. “People are really excited about the image of being able to see, smell, taste the food. I think it’s a long way.”
There are a few other improvements: grouping food into one area, adding indoor seating in bad weather, switching to full service (with waiters) at tables during the evenings – but ultimately, Washington says, the concept remains largely the same as before.
“The whole idea back then was to create a place for the coming church that felt generous, that felt nice and fun and easy,” he says. “I still think the demand here for great food to take home is huge. We had to make some changes to get closer to that goal when we reopen our doors. “
As for the menu of prepared produce, Washington describes it succinctly: “Really simple, beautiful, delicious food. I don’t know how to put it any other way. It has to be food that makes you take one bite and only want to take the next bite. Someone at the table should say, “Oh my god, that’s good.” For us, that’s really all. “
According to Fernandez, the rotisserie will play a huge role in whole chicken, ribs, and fried vegetables. There are fresh pastas, ragu sauces on soft polenta, meatballs, soups, stews, and a heavy emphasis on fresh, seasonal vegetables.
“Seductive is the term I would use,” says Fernandez. “The kind of thing you try and ask how they did because it’s so simple but so damn good.”
Something casual, something simple: Those were priorities for guests at the Grand Fare, says Washington, whose other restaurant projects (including City Hall and Salt House) are based in San Francisco’s financial district.
“There are business people and tourists in the financial district. All of them are locals here, ”he says. “And I think it’s a pretty relaxed group of people: they want great food, and they want to have a great time. The East Bay is not demanding. “
What ultimately excites Washington about getting Grand Fare up and running again.
“It was just fun and people had a lot of fun. We’re really excited to open the doors and bring these people back here to eat, have fun and take food home with them,” he says. “Everyone walks past the window when I’m sitting at the table and they knock and [point at their watch]like “When do you open?” And I give them six fingers for six weeks and they give me a thumbs up. It’s just very heartwarming how the community has reacted. Everyone supported us so much. “
Grand Fare Market3265 Grand Avenue, Oakland. grandfaremarket.com