Located in the landmark Puck Building in lower Manhattan, Chefs Club by Food & Wine is a restaurant that offers culinary events showcasing the magazine’s Best New Chefs platform as well as the work of an international roster of star chefs.
Rockwell Group’s design concept is based on the notion that Chefs Club will break down the boundaries between the chef and guests. The existing turn of the century space has been envisioned to serve as a backdrop for a series of changing art installations that capture “the mind of the chef.”
The 4,000 SF first floor dining space is organized into four areas: a bar/lounge, a main dining room, an open studio kitchen, and a chef’s studio/private dining room. Simple and organic materials in neutral hues, such as walnut, raw concrete, leather, brass and blackened steel, and custom pendant lights complement the existing interior architecture. Several vitrine cases with blackened steel frames and glass panels are located throughout the space. Murray Moss curated the cases in collaboration with Rockwell Group.
A floor-to-ceiling wall composed of Rondelle glass in subtle, de-saturated colors, such as bottle green and sepia, is arranged in a dark lead frame, defining the entry.Inside, guests encounter the first vitrine – a window to the kitchen that reveals the chef’s creative process.
To the left of theentry is the bar and lounge area, which seats 25 total. The dramatic 30’ long bar is comprised of a mixed wood and concrete bar top with metal detailing, and a concrete bar die. One end of the bar features a crudo station. A communal table, which extends from the opposite end, has a concrete top and dark stained walnut base. The hand blown glass globe pendant lights suspended above the bar were made by Sonoma County-based Studio Bel Vetro. The back bar is accented with brass and walnut shelving and uplit bottle steps. It is centered with a walnut framed antique mirror fixed to a ply-formed concrete wall with brass anchors.
Main Dining Area
Rockwell Group selected a darker material palette and a mix of stained walnut dining tables, manufactured by Red Hook-based Uhuru, in different shapes and heights for the 68-seat main dining area. The dining chairs are black metal withseal grey colored stretched leather seats and backs with brass accents. Three round banquettes, upholstered in deep blue-green velvet and cotton with a metal base, line a wall. A tall exposed wine storage wall with a drink stand helps define the main dining area. The existing exposed brick flanking the space is grazed with light to create a dramatic setting.
The space also features a vitrine consisting of a wall of 60 charcoal sketches in varying sizes of chefs behind the banquettes. The portraits were inspired and created by Ren, a Central Park portrait artist, who had previously taught art at an academy in China for 25 years.
Custom tableware blurs the line between fine and casual dining. Rockwell Group worked with local ceramic artist Jono Pandolfi to design plates that combine an unglazed underside and unique handmade profileswith a classic white earth ware and glaze. The plates, combined with simple silverware, glassware and napkins, sit atop brown butcher paper.
Additionally, Rockwell Group designed the uniforms for the front-of-house employees, as well as menus and graphics. Servers will wear a denim greychambray button down shirt, dark rinse jeans and leather boots. The bar’s mixologist will wear a custom leather apron.
Chefs Club offers a new perspective on the open kitchen dining experience. Guests have the option of sitting at a round chef’s table adjacent to a four-seat counter height table, a second four-seat counter near the prep area, or a counter-height rectangular table near the pastry area. Tables have a mixture of marble and walnut tops, similar to the counter tops that reference the counter tops of the kitchen. The space is reflected in a 5’ x 14’ chevron mirror screen. A dramatic 5’ x 5’ hood with an organic shape and molten-like reflective surface hangs above the kitchen. Dual glaze tiles by Heath Ceramics in California cover the back surface of the kitchen.
A vitrine suspended over the chef’s table in the studio kitchen, contains as tunning, 5’ long, 800lbs.Himalayan pink salt shard from the Khewra Salt Mine in Punjab, the oldest salt mine in India. The process of finding the salt shard to installation took approximately 6 months. The shard was shipped by boat, which took 45 days to reach New York.
Chef’s Studio/Private Dining Room
The 15-seat private dining room adjacent to the main dining area has a lighter material palette, including white washed millwork, white washed ash tables and a white drop ceiling, that creates a comfortable residential feel. The room transforms into a chef’s studio for photo shoots and events with guest chefs. A dark wood wall pivots 180 degrees to reveal a chalk board on one side where the guest chef can write notes, and a vitrine where the chef can display personal affects, similar to a cabinet of curiosities. Opening the wall also turns the room into a 24-seat extension of the main dining room. A second vitrine in the studio is composed of a stack of vintage TVs showing time-lapse footage of past, present and future chefs.