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Fernanda Tapia White on Opening Comedor

Photo: Fernanda Tapia White/Katie Chudy

Comedor, a new American-Chilean restaurant, is slated to open up in mid-September in Newton Centre. Eater chatted with Fernanda Tapia White, chef and co-owner, about the process of opening the restaurant and about the concept, which is based largely around her and her husband/co-owner/co-chef Jakob White's childhood memories of food from Chile and America, respectively.

Congrats on the upcoming restaurant! You're a couple weeks away from opening — how are you doing?
It's been crazy. Everything leading up to signing the lease was crazy, and once we signed it, it sort of sunk in that this is real. It's been a mix of excitement, you know, getting to be your own boss and doing what you want to do. That part is really exciting. And then there's this whole other realization that this is such a huge thing, and it's our life savings, and that can be stressful.

Tell me about the concept and how this all came to be.
I've always wanted to have my own restaurant. My husband Jake and I met in cooking school, and we were friends for a very long time. We knew that at some point we wanted to do something, and then last year, around the time we got married, we started to really think about it. Originally we wanted to do something in Boston. It wasn't until about a year ago that we really figured out what we wanted to do. We were at a bar and were creating menus, something we always liked to do, and then we thought it would be so nice if people could actually see what we were doing.

I used to do cooking classes, and I found that people were so interested in that. We thought it would be cool to make food, our way, right out in front of people. So we built everything around that concept. I'm from Chile, and there are some really cool flavors that are from that area; we're going to do a new take on them and really come up with some fun dishes using Jake's American background. We've had the menu done for a while; it was the first thing that we did.

What are some of the dishes on your menu that you're really excited about?
I'm really excited about all of them. It's small plates, so there will be a lot of dishes. We're going to have a lot of empanadas, and we're going to do a take on that. Rather than traditional fillings, we're going to do a braised rabbit, and we're going to serve it with a carrot salsa. [Laughs] You know, a rabbit and carrots. It's just going to be really fun and playful items like that.

I'm also really excited about another dish that I grew up eating, provoleta. It's a traditional Argentinian dish, but we always had it in our house growing up. It's just a little disc of cheese, very similar to provolone, that is usually grilled, but my mom used to always bake it in the oven until it was golden and melty and then serve it with bread around it. So we're going to do that with a mint chimichurri. From the get-go, Jake also wanted fries on the menu, so we wanted to make the best French fries. There are so many different varieties of them, and we've been trying a bunch of them out. We went to Maine and New York and anywhere we could find to do research on the best French fries, and Jake's been really working on different techniques. For our opening, we're planning on serving them with a traditional Chilean spice that grows there and is dried and smoked so it almost tastes like bacon. We'll serve it with a lot of herbs and cotija cheese and a scallion salsa. We just want our food to be fun and playful.

What do you think are the main things that will set you apart from other restaurants in the area?
We're doing the Chilean flavors that you really don't see a lot of, and we're mixing that with a lot of local flavors. We're not going to advertise where we got each item from; we're just going to do it, and then in an effort to be as local as we can, the entire beer list is all American craft beer. Our cocktail program is mainly going to be little boutique brands. You may see something mainstream here and there, but we're going to have things from unique distilleries. Our bread will also come from Rosenfeld Bagels, and they'll be doing these mini challah dinner rolls for us. They're a block away. I don't think we could get more local if we tried. One of the other things I'm really excited about is the kitchen — we want people to really be able to sit there and watch. We'll be doing cooking classes and everything right up front.

What sorts of challenges have you had in opening your first restaurant?
Permitting was a big one. I think it took something like five months from the planning phase that we were just sitting there with an empty space and we couldn't do anything. Also, construction sucks. It's awful. I thought I would really enjoy it and like designing it, and sometimes it is really fun, but once you get in there, there's just dust and plaster everywhere.

I like picking out the plates and silverware and things like that, and we just started a Kickstarter campaign to help us buy all of these items, because you get to the end of the process, and there are still a lot things to buy. We get pretty creative with things, and we're not trying to buy anything super elegant; we want to be casual and get little things that you may not see everywhere. You know, the little things. Like, I hate water goblets, and I see them everywhere. We want to go with a completely different glass. Our coffee mugs will be cool, too. There's this really great hand-painted stuff that we like, and they are one-of-a-kind and all mismatched, and it will feel like home, when you have your own coffee mug. We have a lot of stuff that we know we are going to get, and then we have some stuff that's up in the air depending on how much we can get.
· Comedor [Kickstarter]
· Comedor [Facebook]
· All coverage of Comedor on Eater [~EBOS~]


105 Union Street, Newton, MA