Q&A with Dave Seel of Bagby Restaurant Group
Ann Marie Brokmeier
The Bagby Restaurant group was founded in 2011 and has been behind a variety of successful Baltimore-based restaurants, including Bagby Pizza Co., Ten Ten, Fleet Street Kitchen, and the upcoming Cunningham’s Kitchen. This week, the Bagby Restaurant Group announced that Fleet Street Kitchen will welcome Chef Chris Amendola as their new Executive Chef. I spoke to Dave Seel, Director of Marketing & Public Relations for Bagby Restaurant Group, about the exciting changes that their restaurants are undergoing now and in the future.
1. Bagby Restaurant Group has undergone immense growth in the past couple years. There always seems to be a high volume of happy customers at each location and the Bagby restaurants continue to receive accolades from local publications such as Baltimore Magazine, City Paper, Urbanite, and the Baltimore Sun. What do you attribute this success to?
Our success is 100% due to our staff. We have an incredibly talented group of people who are invested in making these restaurants shine. From our chefs to our servers, it’s these people who create the dining experience for our guests and continually leave them happy night after night.
We’re also unique in the sense that we have three restaurants all next to each other, so there’s a lot of collaboration that happens behind the scenes. Just the other day, Ten Ten’s Chef Roger Black finished brining Corned Beef Tongue that was then featured on the FSK and Ten Ten menus. This collaborative approach keeps our chefs bouncing ideas off of each other, creating a very creative atmosphere. We’re all in this to make our restaurant group successful, not just one restaurant over another.
2. We are happy to welcome Chef Chris Amendola to the Bagby team as Fleet Street Kitchen’s new Executive Chef! Chef Amendola has notable experience both as a Chef and a farmer, and the Bagby Group is well-known for its commitment to quality farm-to-table dining. Because Chef Amendola was hired by Chef Chris Becker -- FSK’s former Executive Chef, now the group’s Chief Operations Officer -- we can only assume great new things coming out of FSK! What can FSK’s fans anticipate with the new leadership change?
Chef Amendola brings a wealth of experience, especially in the farm-to-table, local food category. He brings a really cool passion for wild foods and has already been out foraging for ramps, morels, and fiddleheads in the woods around our farm in Cockeysville, which are being featured on our menus this week. He most recently came from New York’s renowned Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which is one of the most farm-to-table focused restaurants in the Hudson Valley (if not the country). While Chef Amendola will certainly bring his personal style to the FSK cuisine, he will also continue the modern farm-to-table vision that Chef Becker has created for Fleet Street Kitchen.
3. We also hear that the Bagby Restaurant Group is planning to open Cunningham’s, their fourth restaurant, this summer in Towson. Is the name in direct relation to the Cunningham Farms, which provides a foundation of fresh, local food for the Bagby Group? What can we look forward to with the opening of Cunningham’s?
Cunningham is a family name of our owner David Smith, and is obviously a theme that runs throughout the group.
Situated on the first floor of the newly renovated Towson Town Center, Cunningham’s will be a continuation of Chef Becker’s seasonal American theme, but with a smoky twist. Featuring a wood fired grill and oven, these natural cooking elements will take center stage and add a level of rusticity to Becker’s refined sense of cooking. The menu will feature American classics, such as oyster on the half-shell, grilled lobster tail, artisan flatbread, and some impressive cuts of local, grass fed steaks.
On the ground level, Cunningham’s Bakery & Café will also offer patrons locally sourced breakfast, lunch, and housemade artisan breads and pastries.
I think the only thing I would add is that we are excited to be a part of the growing Baltimore culinary scene. There are a lot of exciting things happening around this city, from local breweries to more and more farmer’s markets. We send our staff every weekend to the Jones Fallsway Farmers Market and it’s great to see so many people supporting local agriculture. In all of our restaurants, we take a locally sourced, slow food approach to cooking and people really love it. It’s more than just a trend to us, it’s the way cooking and eating should be – appreciating a sense of place, its seasons, produce, and cuisine.
Bagby Restaurant Group can be found online at http://www.bagbyrestaurantgroup.com/.
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