This morning, it was revealed that Ian Schrager would retain the Pump Room name for the restaurant in his new hotel Public, that's taking over the former Ambassador East Hotel. Further, Bradford Phillips, who most recently helmed the kitchen at LM Le Restaurant in Lincoln Square and has spent time in the kitchen at Tru, Blackbird and NoMI, was named as the executive chef.
Eater had the opportunity to chat with Schrager, who talked about naming the restaurant, finding Phillips, dumping Stumptown for La Colombe and whether the Pump Room would expand as Public Hotels open up in other cities in the country.
People seem pretty happy you kept the Pump Room name. I have to be honest, I truly thought it was going to change and this was just a marketing ploy to appease Chicagoans. You were leaning toward Gold Coast Kitchen weren't you?
I was in the beginning only because I interviewed a lot of restaurant people who had the most successful restaurants in town. They all wanted to change it. They wanted to do something new. And that's the way I was originally thinking about it. But as I started developing the hotel and saw how impassioned everyone was about it, I finally reached a point that I didn't care and what the people wanted was fine with me. We decided the best way was to go out and take a vote. We didn't want everyone to get mad at us.
How did you find Brad Phillips?
Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] was the one that found him. We're a big fan of the Blackbird people and think they're really talented and great guys. Chicago is a serious food town and I didn't realize that until I went there and started eating at the restaurants. We wanted to get Chicago people in the kitchen. I'm primarily relying on Jean-Georges to deliver the food. He went on an extended headhunting tour and met with everyone and told me they found the person they wanted. I was happy when I found out where he worked in the past. It'll be simple food and reasonably priced, but we want something that will have a gourmet flourish to it.
What is it about Brad's past and skill set that you think fits with what you're going to do at Public?
His past pedigree indicated to me talent and when you're talented you're capable of working in various vernaculars. That's the ethos of the restaurant. That's why I went to Jean-Georges. I like what he does at ABC Kitchen, everything about it. I'm sure he chose Brad because he thought he was talented.
Can you tell me anything more specific about the food, like what certain dishes may look like?
It's really for Jean-Georges. I'm sorry. The way it's really working is that we're relying on him to deliver the great food and wanted the food to segue into Asian and exotic Indian late at night. We'll also have a bakery on site and we'll have fresh baked goods.
Will Brad oversee the food for the entire hotel or just the Pump Room?
For the entire hotel. We're going to have the Pump Room for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late supper and brunch. In the Library we'll be serving fresh baked goods, exotic elements, coffees and [we'll have] an extensive banquet menu. And there will be a new take on in-room dining and room service that we're calling Public Express. It'll be reasonably priced and no room service charges, sort of a new take on a bento box. If you want to eat the food in the restaurant we're encouraging you to eat there, but we're working on new itmes for the rooms.
What elements of the old restaurant will make an appearance, if any?
We kept all the photographs and we're planing on incorporating that into the look. We want to use it looking forward and not try to represent the bygone era, but make it into a visual presentation when people come into the restaurant. It's treacherous balancing the heritage and trying to do something innovative for today's era. As you know, the Pump Room hasn't been successful for 20 years.
You mention you still want the Pump Room to be a place to see and be seen. How will you achieve that?
By making a place that makes people feel good, where they're treated well and the food is really delicious. That's the most important aspect of a good restaurant. If you have great food and great service and the place looks great then you get great people.
I also hear that Stumptown Coffee is out and La Colombe is in - why the change?
We just felt it would be better to do something from Chicago and they're opening up something over by Blackbird. Most of the great chefs we're friends with—like Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer and Jean-Georges—they've all used La Colombe so we thought it would be better to go with them. They'll be helping us train so we can serve the right coffee. We're interested in doing this really well and providing quality coffee from around the world. We came up with this idea of having lobby socializing that was for the night, but we want it fo the day as well.
Last question: You've talked about taking the Public concept to other cities. Would the Pump Room be part of that?
No, there's only one Pump Room in this country and that's in Chicago. It's the only place it should ever be.
· Ian Schrager Keeps Pump Room Name, Taps Bradford Phillips as Executive Chef [~EChi~]