If you were one of Dash of Daisy’s first readers, you probably remember my post about that delicious restaurant with the scones I was so obsessed with. Allow me to introduce to you Chestnut Fine Foods and Provisions.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirstin Steele, owner of Chestnut, about her experiences in the restaurant industry. Kirstin opened the restaurant just a little over a year ago with her sister, Marissa Hochman.
DoD: Where did the inspiration to start Chestnut come from?
KS: Chestnut Lane is the previous name of the business, and it was owned by a woman named Polly Levine. My sister Marissa frequented the location often and she was a huge fan, and when (Levine) closed down, it was very abrupt. My sister was a friend of hers at that point, and she kept asking, ‘When are you going to reopen?’ Conversation between the two of them eventually came to, ‘Well, would you like to take it over?’ I literally was working at a medical facility across town one day and my sister called me and she goes, “Do you want to open a restaurant with me?” And I was like, “Okay!”
DoD: Did you two have any previous experience with owning a business or working in the restaurant industry?
KS: We had never been in the restaurant business before. It’s definitely been an experience. We hired on restaurant consultants to help us get started. We put together an idea of what we wanted this place to look and feel like and the menu and that’s kind of what happened. We retained about 30 percent of the original menu and about 70 percent of the (new) menu is original items that we created with a chef.
DoD: What were the first couple months like running Chestnut?
KS: When we opened the doors, it was definitely a learning experience. I like to tell people we hit the ground running because we’re on 44th Street and Camelback Road. You cannot beat this kind of exposure, but for people who have never really run a restaurant, it’s difficult because you’re slammed in the beginning and you don’t have a lot of time to learn. But the great thing about us is we’re resilient and we’re persistent. We’ve learned from our mistakes, we’ve grown, evolved and learned in the process.
DoD: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
KS: To be patient. It’s interesting because, you know, you have a lot of pride in what you do, and you don’t open something unless you think it’s going to be a success. So before opening I was like, “This place is going to be the bomb! Everybody’s going to love it right away,” and when they didnt, because of all the mistakes that we made, it was kind of gut wrenching. When things like that happen, all you can kind of do is wallow in your negativity, but you have to work for it and you have to be patient. Just create a positive energy. You have to put forth the work and the effort.
Dod: What has been the greatest part of owning a restaurant?
KS: Probably the gratification I get from creating a space for not only the public, but also for our employees. There have been a lot of friendships that have happened since opening, where the back of the house people are becoming really good friends, the front of the house people are becoming really good friends.. I like to believe I’m really good friends with our manager, Laura, and our pastry chef, Shannon, and everybody here who works. I genuinely care about all of our employees.
KS: I don’t think that way. I’m a very competitive person but not on that level. This is business. I’m focused on my business, and I only want success for other businesses too. The great thing about it is I think it just really brings focus to this corner. I just think we’re all working as a team, even though we’re not on the same team. We’re all working to build this corner.
DoD: Does Chestnut have a mission?
KS: We’ve got two main goals here at Chestnut. The primary goal is to create a community space. The second equal goal is to be a local business that supports local business. We want to support other local businesses so that people buy local and support local because that’s the only way that we can build our city.