Saturday night at the restaurant, the atmosphere in the kitchen was electric with festivity.
It was our last night of service before a scheduled week-long closure, during which we’d detail-clean the kitchen, complete trainings, and test new recipes. We were slated to reopen the week of August 8, with a completely revamped menu, just in time for Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week.
At the end of the evening, we put up a big meal and gathered together around a long table in the main dining room. Chef Steven Geddes spoke to us as a family, heralding our spirit and our greatness as a team, and thanking us for our service.
We toasted with the open bottles of wine left over from the evening’s dinner service.
This morning, we stood together again as a family, along with the crew from The Bistro, another Relish Group-owned restaurant, while Martin Wade, owner of the Relish Group, regretfully informed us of his decision to close both Local 127 and The Bistro.
In the split seconds that followed, as my heart hammered in my ears and the thousand times I’ve wondered if this is all just a dream clouded my vision and forced everything from my mind besides the completely foolish and illogical mantra, “Do not cry, do not move, and if everyone in this place turns tail and runs for the door and the ceiling crashes down, you will be the last one standing here.” I could feel nothing more than that, and only hoped that my chin was still held high, my shoulders square.
In the moments that followed, as Chef Steve spoke to us, we learned that next Monday, Local 127 will reopen at 413 Vine Street, in the space that was The Bistro, while the building at 127 West Fourth Street will be used for events such as wedding receptions. Our two crews—Local 127 and The Bistro—would join together as one family. Those who wanted jobs would have them.
In the hours that followed, I learned that I would still have my job. That I would still be a baker. That the little loft in The Bistro’s kitchen would be converted into Local 127’s new pastry kitchen.
That I would have two entire ovens that work…that I won’t have to twiddle and cajole or kick and curse.
I spent the remainder of the the afternoon with the crew of guys who have become my adopted brothers, packing up the old space and cleaning the new.
Leaving the old space is bittersweet.
After all, the kitchen at 127 West Fourth is the first professional kitchen I ever set foot in.
It’s the place where my dream of becoming a cook—and someday, a chef—began to take shape.
It’s the place where, one Friday night at the end of April, Chef Kyle Johnson agreed to give me—a nobody with no training and no experience and big dreams—a chance.
Where I learned just how lucky and blessed I am to have not only my new family at the restaurant, but my amazing family from my former life as a school psychologist.
It is a place where my life has changed.
But it’s not the place that has changed my life, it is the people and the experiences that we have shared.
And so even though the change is bittersweet, it is also exciting.
This week, we’ll work together to deep-clean and redesign the space that was The Bistro. Chefs, cooks, dishwashers. Front-of-house and back-of-house staff. Side by side, in plastic aprons, on our hands and knees with rags and sponges. We’ll turn the place around, gut it and redesign it to our exact specifications.
It’s the best way, really—at least for me. I need to be with these people who have become my family. I need to work, to do something constructive so as not to give in to the destruction of fear and worry about all of the things that could happen.
Next week, Local 127 will reopen in our beautiful new space. It’s welcoming, comforting, and casual, and much more in keeping with Local 127’s farm-to-table concept than the old space was. The location is spectacular, just steps from Fountain Square.
We’ll be able to do more than we did before, too. In addition to dinner, we’ll do lunch and maybe eventually a Sunday brunch.
It’s like Local 127 has been trying to cram itself into a mold that just didn’t fit.
Sort of like me, before I quit my day job to become a baker.
Finally, we can just be who we are.
Read more about the move on Campbell’s Scoop.