West Bridge Restaurant
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
With a resume that includes eateries such as Manhattan’s Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, Aquavit, Tocqueville, and Boston’s Brasserie Jo and Aquitaine, Gaudet now calls West Bridge home. His home, that is.
Gaudet and business partner Alexis Gelburd-Kimler opened the Kendall Square restaurant one year ago, and continue to garner rave reviews. Housed in the former Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Company, which manufactured fire hoses in the 1880s, West Bridge is the first kitchen that Gaudet had a hand in designing.
“In my world it’s square footage to seats, to square footage in the kitchen,” says Gaudet, meaning how many staff members can comfortably work in the space.
“The opportunity to build my own kitchen was both lucky as well as daunting.”
One of the most important lessons, he says, is to save your pennies and start with a nest egg.
“Just to approach an architect, apply for a liquor license and a building application license all cost money that no one thinks about up front,” says Gaudet. “Legal fees are expensive, and things like negotiating a lease you just can’t do by yourself.”
Challenge #1: The Egress
Gaudet’s original kitchen design had an area dedicated for the back line, which is where much of the prep work takes place, but due to the need for an emergency egress, and the fact that it’s prohibited for patrons to exit through the kitchen, everything had to be moved in order to allow direct access to the back door.
“That changed the configuration of what I was planning,” says Gaudet. “And of course that changes the personalities and the profile of what’s going on in the kitchen.”
The back line was originally going to have a secondary line of kitchen staff as well as space for more prep staff nearby, so when lunch was in full swing, for example, the dinner staff would be available to help.
“ Working in a kitchen is a very collaborative environment,” says Gaudet, “It’s not uncommon for someone to shout out at any moment, ‘Hey I need some more of this, or I don’t have enough backup would you jump over and help me?’”
Gaudet says now that the secondary line is working downstairs in their additional space, there’s a lot of telephoning and intercom use.
“The way the kitchen was built changes what I need upstairs at any given time,” says Gaudet. “I want to minimize the need for people to have to go up and down the stairs.”
And for that reason, Gaudet takes extra care in planning the menu.
Designing a menu
“You have to keep in mind how things are going to be cooked, and how much of everything you will need at any given time,” says Gaudet. “That depends on the menu structure, firepower, and storage space.”
Gaudet says his creativity has not been affected due to kitchen constraints — that his menu is a true reflection of his food.
“There are many ways of telling a story,” says Gaudet. “Whether it’s a barbeque place, seafood place or ultra fine dining for 40 people with 10 cooks.”
The configuration at West Bridge, he says, has just changed how he tells the story.
“When I create a dish, it has to work physically, and that goes all the way back to when we first constructed the kitchen,” says Gaudet.”
Certain menu items are streamlined by incorporating various salads as garnishes rather than hot choices, because he can keep them up front after he prepares them and avoid having six people cooking in the kitchen.
The menu is built by estimating how much of each dish is ordered as well as the garnish that must be delegated throughout the room, so there are cold garnishes, purees, and items that are cooked on the minute.
“Generally speaking, when most people open a restaurant they open with their idea of a cool menu, but have a lot of ‘safety’s’ on it,” says Gaudet. “Be prepared to make your popular dishes, but also design it to please a new crowd.”Duck eggs are used in many recipes, including purees, mushroom dishes, and their famous “Egg in a Jar,” which includes slow-cooked duck eggs, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, potato puree and crispy duck skin.