There's a harvest of autumn restaurant openings that I'm looking forward to, but the one that I'm most excited about -- the one that I'm tracking with intense anticipation -- is Session Kitchen, a new restaurant from Breckenridge-Wynkoop that's tentatively slated to open in Platt Park on October 29.
We revealed the concept -- "globally-inspired cuisine that's shared among guests in iron-clad cookware, portioned the way you want it' -- in mid-August, along with the news that Scott Parker, the long-time chef of Table Six, had departed that kitchen to run the culinary show at Session, and Parker isn't the only bold name to come on board: Michael Cerretani, a local bartender whose savviness with spirits resulted in a top ten national finalist position in 2010's GQ-Bombay Sapphire Inspired Bartender Competition, a top three national finalist standing in the 2011-2012 Esquire magazine/Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience, and a first place finish in the 2012 Denver GQ-Bombay Sapphire competition, has been tapped as the restaurant's bar manager.
And Cerretani, whose credits also include several local bartending competition takeaways, a three-year stint behind the stick at the Bitter Bar, numerous bar-and-restaurant consulting gigs and a spell with Beverage Distributors, where he did staff training and menu development, happens to be friends with Ken Kodys, the beverage manager of the Brecknridge-Wynkoop empire. "Ken and I are good friends, and once he realized that I was no longer with Beverage Distributors, he gave me a call and we chatted about the vision of Session Kitchen, and it was extremely appealing to me on a lot of different levels," says Cerretani. "My passion lies in being behind the bar of a restaurant and curating beverage programs, and aside from the fact that Scott Parker is amazing, Ken and I have very similar backgrounds -- plus I've always wanted to be the architect behind a from-the-ground-up beverage program, and this is an opportunity to really push the boundaries," he adds.
The cocktail program at Session, he stresses, will be "advanced," and one of the bars on the main level of the two-tiered space -- "Session Bar" -- is a stage, he says, for bartenders and cocktail crowds alike to dabble in innovation and intrigue. "I'm going to do things that I haven't done a lot of in the past -- smoked cocktails, for example -- and one of the really cool things about the Session Bar, is that it won't have a printed menu," says Cerretani. Instead, the "intention is to create a showcase for the cocktails, and the bartenders working the seats will be able to exercise their own creativity by designing custom cocktails based on whatever spirit the guest wants," he tells me.
And while Cerretani admits the this country's modern cocktail culture has resulted in a degree of elitism, he emphasizes that Session won't embrace the pompousness. "We're not in the business of saying 'no' to guests," he insists. "We want people to have a wonderful dining and drinking experience -- that's our number one priority, and let's face it: No one wants to sit in front of a snobby bartender."
He emphasizes, too, that the beverage priorities at Session will extend far beyond cocktails. "When you look at a beverage program, you should be looking at it as a whole, including coffee, tea and nonalcoholic drinks -- and make them all excel," he says.
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The wine list, he reveals, is a "small, esoteric list that will grow organically," and Session will open with approximately 25 wines available by the bottle, and twenty by the glass, including three tap wines. Housemade sodas are on the horizon, as well, and the bartenders will also create their own syrups.
And if you're one of those people who's obsessed with the new ice age that's inherent to craft-cocktail bars, Session is your kind of igloo. "We'll be able to break down 300-pound blocks of sculpture-grade ice, thanks to the Clinebell machine that we're getting," says Cerretani. And while the machine, which produces ice that doesn't dilute the spirits, is a fantasy splurge in the bartending world, Cerretani, who admits he didn't actually expect to get it, credits the owners -- Lee Driscoll, Ed Cerkovnik and Lisa Berzins Ruskaup -- for allowing the staff to invest in the best. "Breckenridge-Wynkoop has been extremely supportive of what we're doing, notes Cerretani. "They're opening a restaurant where everyone can push their limits, and I'm really excited to be working with this team -- a team that's giving people, including me, great opportunities to learn and grow."
And if you're interested in joining that team, we have some very good news: Cerretani is looking to hire a dozen full-time bartenders and an additional four barbacks. "We're seeking career bartenders -- people who are extremely humble but capable of doing extraordinary things," says Cerretani, adding that he's also interested in bartenders who have experience making classic cocktails, as well as creating craft cocktails for a high-volume restaurant -- in this case, one with multiple bars and nearly 300 seats. "I want fun, funny, passionate, eccentric and humble career bartenders who are looking for a place where they can grow, learn and excel with me and our team," he concludes.
If you have the attributes and skills that Cerretani's looking for, send a polished resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org.