Sepia owner Emmanuel Nony and chef Andrew Zimmerman hope the new restaurant they plan on opening at the end of the year provides a bold, more casual departure from the fine-dining experience that made the original a Michelin-starred restaurant. They won't divulge the name or location of the new spot, but Nony says it will be within a two-mile radius of Sepia, allowing Zimmerman and Sepia's crew to easily float between both locations.
The two spoke about how guests sometimes have preconceptions about fine-dining restaurants, and how their new and unnamed spot would challenge palettes and expectations. There's also a lower price point, and for example, the most-expensive bottle of wine at Sepia clocks in about $500. Nony said they're targeting a high-mark of $100 at the new restaurant.
"There is a lot of really interesting food we want to explore that doesn't necessarily fit into the fine-dining paradigm," Zimmerman said. "There's a lot of things we want to share with the Chicago dining public. It's not about being bored with Sepia, it's really about exploring."
Zimmerman, a Beard Foundation Award semifinalist nominee for Best Chef: Great Lakes, will be joined by Sepia beverage director Arthur Hon, who helped net Sepia's other Beard semifinalist nomination for Outstanding Wine Program. Sepia pastry chef Cindy Schuman will also join the team at the new restaurant. Eventually they'll bring on new team members, as the influx of new blood will further help differentiate the new concept, Zimmerman said.
What about that new identity? For example, the new restaurant will serve some menu items that diners will be encouraged to use their hands to eat. But that playfulness won't be indicative of the entire menu: "I can confirm we won't be opening up a barbecue joint," Zimmerman said.
Sepia celebrates its ninth birthday this year and Private Dining by Sepia turns five, which means "the timing is right for the team." Nony said they've been contemplating opening a second restaurant for years. Sepia earned a Michelin star this year, and has earned the recognition every year since 2011.