For Joe Flamm, there were many times since April 2021 when he had doubts that his Fulton Market restaurant, Rose Mary, would survive the pandemic. Worries aren’t anything novel for restaurants trying to survive in the tumultuous first year; few break even under normal conditions. But COVID added extra layers with concerns about his health and his staff, while deciphering the government’s pandemic rules.
Rose Mary had an edge — a chic Fulton Market location and Flamm, the former Spiaggia chef who learned under legendary chef Tony Mantuano. Flamm also won national recognition after his 2018 Top Chef triumph.
But COVID, in many ways, leveled the playing field, as all restaurants — from the independents to large corporate chains — dealt with similar conditions. That’s not to create false equivalency, President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t exactly include indie restaurants in the White House’s Economic Council for Restaurants.
While navigating this tough terrain, Flamm and his wife, Hilary Delich, also welcomed their second child into the world. As pandemic rules loosen, 2022 looks bright: “We want to celebrate, this has not been a typical year for an opening, that’s for sure,” Flamm says.
To mark these occasions, Flamm and seven chefs — close friends who supported Rose Mary from day No. 1, Flamm says — will collaborate on a special anniversary dinner on Wednesday, April 20. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour affair with special dishes. Locally, diners should be familiar with pastry chef Leigh Omlinsky from her work with Boka Restaurant Group. There’s also two of Flamm’s close friends, Detroit chefs Joe Giacomino and John Vermiglio. The rest of the roster consists of Top Chef alums: LA chef Joe Sasto (Lazy Bear); Colorado chef Carrie Baird; N.Y. chef and Hyde Park native Adrienne Cheatham; and Connecticut chef Tyler Anderson.
One alum’s absence will be felt by Flamm and his friends. Fatima Ali died in January 2019. Rose Mary will donate 20 percent of ticket sales to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity that focuses on helping families with young cancer patients. The cancer that afflicted Ali as an adult is mostly found in pediatric patients; her diagnosis was an anomaly. Flamm says the charity organization has experience in helping those who suffer from this specific cancer. Flamm’s mentor, Mantuano, was also involved with the charity. Flamm attended on of the group’s events and was hooked on their mission, which helps families deal with unexpected costs accrued during treatment.
Top Chef forged long-lasting relationships with Flamm, a Beverly native. He recalls sitting in a backyard with Anderson, hanging out and talking. The conversation shifted to Flamm sharing the ideas in his head for his dream restaurant, one of the first times he had done so in public. It was the foundation for what would eventually become Rose Mary. The alums will talk him through financial details and give honest feedback. These chefs made themselves available even while dealing with the same COVID pressures at their restaurants that Rose Mary faces: “They’ll talk to you when things are good, when things are bad, when shit hits the fan,” Flamm says.
Ownership planned on opening Rose Mary in early 2021, but the date moved due to pandemic uncertainty. The restaurant eventually opened in April 2021, but it was hardly smooth sailing. Flamm contracted COVID in December, needing to isolate himself from his colleagues and family as Omicron emerged.
“This year was very hard,” Flamm says. “Luckily, I have a really good core group of people. I have an amazing staff when we hit our bumps in the road… But I really believe in what we’re doing.”
Rose Mary, One-Year Anniversary Dinner, Wednesday, April 20, 932 W. Fulton Market, tickets available via Tock.