Three weeks ago, on a Saturday, notable chef Justin Brunson sailed away from Wild Catch, the sustainable seafood restaurant he opened with Daniel Kuhlman in late August, after alleging that Kuhlman refused to reveal the restaurant's financials. Brunson's staff -- both the front and back of the house -- followed suit, but Kuhlman, who steadfastly refutes Brunson's accusations, insisted that he would reopen Wild Catch earlier this month.
He didn't quite make his deadline, but Wild Catch will reopen -- and when it does, Tony Clement, the former executive chef of Mizuna, will be spearheading the kitchen, while his wife, Mandi, also a former Bonanno employee, will oversee the front of the house. Both are on board as consultants.
"Someone -- I'm not sure who -- gave our names to Daniel, and we all got together last week to talk about the restaurant, and since we don't want this beautiful space to sit empty, we're coming on as consultants," says Mandi, who adds that she and Tony have also started their own catering company, which is now on the back-burner. "We're taking a step back to concentrate on this concept."
A concept, she says, that "will definitely go through some changes." The name -- Wild Catch -- will remain the same, at least for the time being, but Tony's menu, notes Mandi, won't. "We're planning to do American comfort food -- fish, some game meats and different cuts of beef -- and the focus will be on affordability and putting as much effort as we can on sourcing local, organic and sustainable ingredients," she explains. Entrees, she notes, will be in the $20 to $30 range. "It's important to us that people can afford to come back."
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As for the space, Mandi reveals that it won't undergo any substantial alterations. "We may do some minor modifications down the line, but it's a very clean, modern and simple space, and we'd like to keep it that way," she says.
Wild Catch is having a friends and family dinner on Sunday, but the opening date hasn't been solidified. "Our first day in here was yesterday, so absolutely nothing is set in stone, and until we hire and train a staff, which is all new, we're not going to nail down a date," she says. "Before we open, we want to make sure that we have the highest standards of service in place."
Mandi and Tony haven't made any concrete decisions about their tenure at Wild Catch, but Mandi does say this: "This is a good step for us regardless of how long we're here, and we want to do whatever we can to get up and running and make this a restaurant that puts out really good food."