Earlier this week, I attended a media event at Bailey’s Prime Plus flagship location at The Shops of Park Lane. (Ed’s Note: Last week we reported that the Fort Worth location is now closed.) The gathering was held to showcase the changes the restaurant has made since owner Ed Bailey hired Avner (Nosh, Snack) Samuel as a consultant. Samuel brought one of Nosh’s chef, Ryan Carbery, to Bailey’s and overhauled the steak-centric steakhouse into a lower price point New American restaurant. The contract between Bailey and Samuel is up. Avner has gone back to his own business, but Carbery is staying on as the full-time execuchef at Bailey’s.
SideDish has already reported that the chef and sommelier have left the building and that long-time Dallas restaurateur Avner Samuel has been brought in on a consulting contract to reshape the kitchen. There was a large turnover in the front of house staff and all of the kitchen staff except one has been let go. Bailey and company blame the lack of business on the recession-induced decision not to build the once-planned hotel and health club next door to the restaurant. The only strategy left was for them to change the food and the service.
Will they succeed? Jump for food photography by Desiree Espada….
At Tuesday’s event, they announced their new strategy. Ken Kuczwaj has been hired as Director of Operations and Marketing. He is a veteran of Bob’s Steak and Chop House. Kuczwaj is the executive in charge and the guy with the most to win or lose depending on how things turn out. During his time at Bob’s, the restaurant successfully lured the expense account spenders and knocked out a brilliant steak house menu and provided professional service. I expect that under his leadership, Bailey’s will adopt the same model.
The second most important guy is Ryan Carbery. He came with Avner Samuel on the consulting gig, but he is now the new execuchef at Bailey’s. Carbery was once a sous chef at the short-lived Redfork and Lazare. Carbery’s new job will be daunting. He has been placed in a turbulent environment and it’s up to him to settle things down and create a solid product and manage a new staff. Bailey’s is a not only a huge restaurant, there are additional 10, 20 and 40-seat dining rooms intended for the lucrative group-dining market. If the marketing folks fill those regularly, it will put a lot of stress on the kitchen. At this media event Carbery took us through a fleet of new dishes, most of which will make the new menu.
Kuczwaj is nothing if not flexible. For example, the wine list at Bob’s was a Cabernet cavern of steak house favorites. At Bailey’s, he inherited one of the best and most eclectic cellars in the city. It was painstakingly assembled over time by former sommelier Jennifer Jaco. Her efforts will win a Wine Spectator award for the restaurant this July, probably a coveted Best of Award of Excellence (kind of 2 out of 3 stars — placing it in the top 1% of the country’s wine lists). Despite the change, Kuczwaj has embraced it. He figures it will be his inventory for two or three years. The cigar scene will be embraced: they are adding a smoke-friendly patio and humidor. There is live music in the bar on weekends (Kuczwaj is such a music fan he auditioned the artists personally).
Talking with them, I got the impression that both Kuczwaj and Carbery are aware of the size of the task.