Brett Chizinski's new Meeting Street restaurant, Gale, is set to open next month with a full bar, counter-service, and a range of casual Italian offerings. The Middleton Group designed spot is named for Chizinski's mother, who was a busy working woman who still managed to make dinner for the kids every night. The name is intentional — "It goes back to that idea of hospitality," says Chizinski.
Chizinski and his wife, Mari, have worked tirelessly both in the world of fine dining and the similarly exhausting world of farm to table dining (literally, they lived on a farm that directly served a restaurant). Gale will be different, says Chizinski. "The style is fast casual but the place is beautiful, the food will be refined casual in that you want people to have fun — I hate fine dining. I hate feeling awkward and being pressured in a restaurant is weird."
No pressure in the airy, high-ceilinged, 42 seat space at 601 Meeting, Ste. 140. The small open kitchen will churn out dinner six a nights a week, with lunch service soon to follow. Chizinski knows a thing or two about Italian fare — he worked under chef/owners Mike Lombardi and Kevin O'Donnell at Venetian-inspired restaurant SRV
in Boston. At Gale, chef will prepare entrees like beef cheek bourguignon over savory bread pudding; sandwiches with chicken, meatball, and eggplant served with parm, pesto, or butter and capers; salads; and pizzas.
And with a degree from Boston University in aerospace engineering, Chizinski is very conscience of the way a restaurant's design impacts the final menu.
"It's very advantageous for me as a chef to oversee construction from the beginning," he says. "I knew how each thing would effect the food program, every measurement affects every item, affects every other item — the width at the bar can affect what garnish you can put on a dish."
Take beef tongue, for example. "The amount of fridge space immediately affects what you can offer," says Chizinski. With space upstairs for a large freezer, the chef will be able to brine and store more beef tongue, making it feasible to put on the menu. Sans such space, beef tongue could be out. It's all about compromise, and making sure you're not only fulfilling your lifelong dreams, but filling your employees' pockets with cold hard cash, too.
Yes, he wants to get creative (beef tongue, imported ingredients). But he also wants to cater to the "dude looking for a sandwich and a beer." Chizinski says he has no patience for the head in the cloud cooks who are "pursuing one dream while putting [others'] livelihood at stake." "My first priority is being able to pay my employees," says Chizinski. "If some kid is like 'oh I can make real money being a server, working in a kitchen,' they won't pursue if there's uncertainty."
The couple moved from the farm on Martha's Vineyard to Charleston in 2017. Chizinski helped Tres Jackson with Sorghum & Salt, then moved to the kitchen at Kwei Fei for a bit before taking time off to focus on Gale. He worked at Salty Pig in Boston and Aldea
in New York, the Michelin star Portuguese restaurant that convinced him fine dining was not to be his fate. At least, not working from noon to 2 a.m. six days a week in a high pressure environment.
"Fine dining is so frustrating because when you're plating something there are 20 different movements and if you fuck one up and get oil on the plate or something, you have to start over and when you start doing that in high volume settings..." All that frustration and anxiety has fine-tuned Chizinski's vision — he knows what he doesn't want in a restaurant. But he also knows his dishes at Gale, even for counter service, will be "gorgeous."
A chef quite certain of himself after years of grinding overtime, Chizinski also urges that his food will not necessarily use "local" ingredients or flavors that are considered "authentic" Italian. "I consider what is best for the dish in terms of actual cuisine," he says. "I go for what tastes best. Just because I want clam chowder doesn't mean it has to be the same shitty stuff your mom in Boston makes." Chizinski's version may include charred fennel and fried potatoes topped with kimchi.
"I don't look at dishes and say 'well historically carbonara is made with pancetta' ... I'd much rather look at dishes and figure out how to treat each ingredient the best way possible."
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