In February we released our How to Open a Restaurant guide and launched a contest to help one aspiring restaurateur fund his or her dream project. After collecting and reviewing applications and narrowing down entries (with the help of a trusted panel of New York restaurateurs) we are thrilled to announce our three finalists. Congratulations to Christopher Fehlinger, Reem Assil, and Robin Song!
Now that the finalists have been selected, they will each launch Kickstarter campaigns to raise money for their restaurant projects. They will each have the same funding goal ($35,000) and time frame to raise the money. At the end of the funding period, the finalist who has raised the most funds will be declared the winner. We’ll be cheering them on!
To recap, here’s what’s included in our grand prize, worth more than $38,000 total:
- A 12-month subscription to OpenTable’s flagship Guest Center product, plus access to the world’s largest diner network and a credit on cover fees
- A full set of professional All-Clad pans
- A set of 25 Hedley & Bennett aprons
- 25 annual memberships to the online content from Journee, a community for restaurant professionals
- $15,000 cash to put toward your project
The Kickstarter campaigns will launch at the first of August, so stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, here’s a little bit of information to help you get to know the finalists.
Christopher has extensive experience in celebrated restaurants across the U.S., having served as Captain at Union Square Cafe and Babbo in New York City and General Manager of Osteria La Buca in Los Angeles. Most recently Christopher has been the GM at the famed Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico — but he has his sights set on Denver next.
His concept is Clyde, a lively but approachable wine-centric restaurant in the former Le Central space in Denver, featuring a menu focused on shareable dishes. Clyde will have a unique wine program: nearly every one of the 500 bottles of wine on site can be opened and offered by the glass. A highly knowledgeable and trained staff will curate wine experiences for guests, paired with a changing, seasonal food menu. A key part of Christopher’s plan? Using OpenTable to track guests’ wine and food experience to ensure each visit offers something new and interesting (or even a repeat of their last exceptional meal).
Reem is the founder of Reem’s, a catering company that specializes in “traditional Arab street food made with California love.” Her menu of mezze, desserts, and baked goods (including her signature man’oushe) is inspired by Arab street-corner bakeries and the vibrant communities they serve. Now, she has secured a brick-and-mortar location for Reem’s in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, which she plans to transform into a high-quality fast-casual concept.
Previously, Reem worked with the Bay Area’s esteemed cooperative bakery Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria, Grace Street Catering, Local Flavors, and several local chefs. In 2014 she was accepted to the competitive food business incubator program La Cocina. In pursuit of her passion for food and community, she hopes to to merge her passions for food and social justice through creative collaboration and innovative entrepreneurship.
Robin’s resume includes chef positions at San Francisco’s Central Kitchen, Hog & Rocks, and Ame, among others, in addition to a stage at Relae in Copenhagen. His concept Junju — a celebration of traditional Korean food and California agriculture — will explore untapped areas of traditional cuisine in a modern, approachable atmosphere.
Robin’s inspiration for Junju started with his Korean heritage; he grew up cooking traditional dishes with his grandmother and eating street food in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. With these strong influences, he’ll focus on Korean barbecue with the traditional arts of fermentation and preservation at its core, adapting traditional techniques to highlight California’s rich agriculture and food movements.