"I'm not a very strategic person," chef Matt Dillon told the crowd at last week's restaurant development summit at The Triple Door. He was joined on stage by fellow restauratuers Renee Erickson, Tom Douglas, Thierry Rautureau, Rick Yoder and Ethan Stowell. He had just been asked by the moderator, "What's next?" or something equally loaded.
What followed was one of the highlights (at least for me) of the nearly two-hour long event, when Dillon proceeded to talk about how his restaurants actually evolved to become the popular destinations they are today.
"I think I take a holistic approach to projects," he said. "When I first found Sitka & Spruce, which was actually a doughnut shop before we opened in 2006 and Renee (Erickson) was catering out of there, I took over that space and I thought I was going to do a late-night sandwich place called Bigfoot Sandwiches and serve deep-fried food until 3 a.m., which was a fine idea and a really horrible name, but it was not to be. Probably about a month before we opened, Sitka & Spruce evolved into an actual restaurant. And then the downfall in the economy forced me to move it.
In between then, when I opened The Corson Building, I just stumbled upon the building — I had a friend who was living there — and took over the space. The rent seemed good and I thought, 'Maybe I'll live here,' and then, 'If I could pull over and just go to dinner here;' I wasn't really sure and then it turned into The Corson Building.
(Insert crowd's roaring laughter)
"But then I found a business partner in Katherine Anderson and we actually developed a vision over a long build-out period for The London Plane. Having someone go into it with their own set of visions helped me sort of establish something before we opened rather than just flying by the seat of my pants."
The newest London Plane turns one-month-old tomorrow (Thurs).