Jamie Bissonnette has been a busy man.
Between helping to transform what was once a decrepit corner of the South End into a gastronomical go-to with the roughly nine-year-old Toro, and to then opening Coppa on Shawmut Ave, followed by the double duty of writing his first charcuterie cookbook (now available) while at the same time opening a Manhattan outpost of Toro, the man has been living in a state of constant flux for some time.
And now that his charcuterie book is finally out, Toro NYC is up and running, not to mention recovering a stolen scooter with some Boston moxie (“Turns out it doesn’t matter if someone stole your property … assault is assault,” he joked), I caught up with him to talk about lessons learned, and the tribulations involved with launching two major projects at once while living between two meccas.
What’s the major difference between opening a restaurant in Boston versus New York City?
With Toro NYC, I understood that some of the decisions can be made by people that have more experience. There’s a reason you hire people who can design or manage things, so you don’t have to worry about everything. Not as much micro-managing. Construction-wise, anytime you open a place anywhere is going to be difficult and have variables. There will always be some stupid speed bump.
What about between your first opening and how you handle things now?
The first time you open a spot, every little detail seems so important. Every option for a decision, you feel like you have to make them all, it all weighs on you. And [it] makes you want to kill yourself or everyone else. So some of the decisions can be made by people that have more experience. I mean, there’s a reason you hire people to design and manage. It’s so you don’t have to worry about everything, not much micro managing. [As far as for construction], anywhere you open it’s gonna be difficult variables. There will always be some stupid speed bump. Always.
How does the size of a spot influence the process, besides just being bigger?
The size of the restaurant is major. Coppa for instance, is only 890 square feet, and Toro NYC is 8,000 square feet. So, ten times the size [of my last opening.] Staffing and training is a whole new challenge.
How does that effect life behind the line?
It’s easier to manage a kitchen when you can touch all three cooks behind the line in one area, versus one where you have to yell at a cook just to get to them. And as a chef you’re in the kitchen tasting every sauce, examining every plate coming back to see what people eat and don’t eat. You take it for granted. The kitchen is in the basement of Toro NYC, so it’s harder to really watch the flow.
Important lessons learned?
Making sure you’re hiring the right people.
Have you been working with any notable local farms for your Boston spots?
Yeah, High Ground Farm. It’s a rooftop farm in the Design Center in the Seaport, and I’ve been getting the best arugula from them.
Any other projects on the burner?
[Laughs] Only one I have right now is new window treatments for my home.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.