City Paper is not for tourists
Last week, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray gave me a hard-hat tour of the sprawling construction site that will eventually become Todd Gray’s Watershed at Constitution Square in the rapidly gentrifying NoMa neighborhood. To be honest, there wasn’t much to look, other than some wall frames and a wide concrete staircase that will soon become the grand, waterfall-enhanced entrance to the couple’s second-story restaurant, their first since opening Equinox.
The most impressive part of Watershed is its scale, and I’m not talking about the 6,500 square feet of bar, banquet, and dining rooms. The restaurateurs’ new operation will potentially serve not only 80 people in the main dining room, but also 25-plus people in the bar and 165 people in the soaring banquet rooms. Then there are the 440 units at the adjacent Flats 130 studio apartments and the 200-plus rooms at the nearby Hilton Garden Inn, where residents and tourists alike will have access to Watershed meals.
That’s right, the kitchen at Todd Gray’s Watershed will serve all of those forthcoming spots, although not with the same menu. The apartment and hotel menus will likely be more concise, and easier to execute, though with the same mid-Atlantic stamp that defines Gray’s cooking.
As the Grays were telling me about all the plates to come out of their kitchen, I practically went catatonic thinking about the precision planning and bullet-train execution that will be required to keep this operation humming. I decided to raise the indelicate point of chef Tom Power‘s experiences at his former incarnation of Corduroy at the Four Points by Sheraton, where the high-powered kitchen was handicapped by all the room-service orders for cheeseburgers and such. Power ultimately left the Sheraton to open a smaller, more manageable Corduroy near the Convention Center.
When I mentioned this, Ellen Kassoff Gray practically went catatonic herself. “They are them,” she said, “and we are us.” By which I think she meant that I should never underestimate the sheer ability of Todd and Ellen Kassoff Gray; they will tame this multi-headed monster.
Later in the tour, Todd Gray admitted that he has considerable experience in large-scale banquet cooking. He knows the process of producing entrees in a kitchen and finishing them in another space in order to keep the cooking area open and moving. “I’m very familiar with this type of push,” the chef said.
We’ll find out soon enough. Todd Gray’s Watershed is expected to open in April.