When the new full-service restaurant opens inside the Cleveland Museum of Art next year, it will be under the direction of “a well-known Cleveland chef.” That, according to a museum spokeswoman who — after enduring a series of lame guesses on our part — is probably sorry she mentioned it in the first place.
“Is it Michael Symon?” No.
“Don't tell me it's going to be another Zack Bruell restaurant!?” No.
“Is it Sergio?” No.
“Wait! It's not going to be the next Melt location, is it!?” Uh, no — although that's actually not such a bad idea...
And so on.
Pending the final paperwork, the exact identity of the chosen chef clearly will remain hush hush. Nonetheless, we did manage to squeeze some data from our source. Most notably, she let on that current plans call for a restaurant that would be both a stand-alone destination and one that would provide a service for museum visitors — perhaps even dishing up menus that would change to reflect a featured exhibit. Its prices would accommodate both those looking for a light bite, and those hungering for a full-meal deal. It would provide a tempting one-stop package for guests heading to the museum for special evening events. And, presumably, its ops would reflect lessons learned from Severance Hall's less-than-successful entry into the public restaurant biz: Their “destination” dining room never turned into the community draw they had imagined, and after a promising opening quickly fell into the “amenity for patrons” niche. (Ergo, perhaps, CMA's decision to play the “well-known local chef” card?)
Given all of the above, speculation is running wild in the Scene office. (Okay, maybe just in my little corner of it.) In any case, I'm thinking the ideal candidate would be a chef possessing at least some of the following qualifications:
1. Experience in large-scale, institutional food service;
2. Or alternately, experience in a large catering op;
3. Or at the very least, someone who has operated more than one dining room simultaneously.
4. An ability and willingness to rock a global, multi-cultural menu.
5. Solid business acumen, political savvy, and the ability to play nice with multiple layers of overseers within an institutional setting; and finally,
6. A tasty blend of professional gravitas and culinary cred, designed to placate cautious museum directors while enticing local foodies.
Could it be James Majors (Progressive Field, and the former Club Isabella)? Marlin Kaplan (Dragonfly, and the former One Walnut, Pig Heaven, Marlin, and more)? Brandt Evans? (Pura Vida, Blue Canyon Kitchen?) Someone drawn from the region's country-club circuit or catering community?
What's your guess? Write it down in the Comment section below. Anyone who guesses right just may win some cheap, boring, inconsequential prize from this rag. But probably not. — Elaine T. Cicora