On June 5, Clio will celebrate its 15 year anniversary with a blowout fifteen-course dinner prepared by fifteen Clio alumni from around the country. The lineup includes chefs like Alex Stupak of Empellon and Empellon Cocina and Sam Gelman of Momofuku - for the full list, see below. Eater spoke with current Clio chef de cuisine Douglas Rodrigues about the upcoming event, how things have changed during his six years in the kitchen, and where Clio is headed from here on out.
What's the meal going to be like? Basically we decided if we're going to do a 15 year anniversary, it's pretty much a landmark milestone for any restaurant, let alone the whole reputation that Clio has, so we decided to bring back 15 alumni chefs that have gone on to do their things. All of these guys have been super successful, they have names of their own, they have restaurants of their own. They're guys who were part of the building process of Clio, who raised Clio when they were here. The idea before was to bring in some of the best chefs in the world and just really throw-down and celebrate, but at the same time we were like screw it, let's make it fun and bring back the guys who built this place from the bottom up and have a good time.
Who's traveling the farthest? Probably John Paul Carmona, from Manresa. He's about as far as you can get, in California.
How have things changed since you've been there? A lot. Clio's always been on the cutting edge of modern food and obviously in the past six years it dramatically changed. We've gone from very involved, very complex, very modern dishes to now shooting towards more of a minimalist look, less seventeen-things-on-a-plate, whether it be garnish or foam or powders or whatever. Just getting back to food on a plate, less chemical-involved. Very involved prep wise, but what you see is what you get. You can understand what you're looking at whereas before you kind of had to question the server as to what it was that you were eating.
What's a dish that represents that newer style? Our duet du boeuf, which is basically beef two ways with red yuzu kosho: that pretty much epitomizes the direction that we're going. And also we have a lemon sole dish with black lime that's the same. Every dish on the menu is going in the direction we're trying to head in, but those are two of my favorites.
How has organizing the anniversary dinner been? Not as bad as I thought. These guys are very professional, they know what they're doing, they've worked at Clio, they know how to organize things there as much as I. These guys are on top of their game. The hardest part was finding everybody's emails.
Do you have an afterparty plan? Nothing planned, but yes. We're going to hammer out 15 courses for 110 people and then we're just going to start cracking champagne. Where it leads after that is... we're all chefs, nobody's got a night planned. The end of the night comes, somebody looks at you and says "you want to go drinkin?" and you find a spot. There are go-to spots, but I don't have a go-to spot for fifteen chefs yet, twenty plus everyone else, but the local dive bar's probably not going to suffice.
What did you think of the Devra First anniversary review? I was happy. That would make anybody nervous, and this was my first review since I became chef de cuisine two years ago. So I'm happy with three stars, given that I know you have to look at management changeover and kitchen changeover, having three chefs in three or four years. Would I have loved three and half? Three and a half would have been nice.
Any dish you're particularly excited about right now? There's a foie gras dish that I'm loving right now. It's foie gras with milk and honey puree, cornichons, candied rhubarb, onion seed relish, crunchy honey. Pretty bangin'.
Note: the anniversary dinner is already been sold out.
1a. & 1b. Ken Oringer and Douglas Rodrigues, Clio
2. Tony Maws, Craigie on Main
3. Alex Stupak, Empellon and Empellon Cocina
4. Alex Talbot & Aki Kamozawa, Ideas in Food
5. Sam Gelman, Momofuku
6. John Paul Carmona, Manresa
7. Doron Wong, China Grill
8. Jason Hua, The Dutch
9. Phillip Kirschen Clark, Demi Monde (formerly of Vandaag)
10. Andres Julian Grundy, formerly of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
11. Chris Chung, AKA Bistro
12. John Critchley, Urbana
13. Rick Billings, Jose Andres’ pastry chef
14. Renae Herzog, Marea
15. Todd MacDonald, La Gazzetta at Villa Pacri