In the Kitchen

Public Works

How the underground Renaissance Hotel restaurant handles the pressure of being visitors’ “first bite” of Providence

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Technically underground, Public Kitchen & Bar is the sleek-yet-comfortable dining establishment situated beneath the Renaissance Hotel on Francis Street. The menu handily balances new and classic American fare, and Public is often (literally) the first taste of Providence that many visitors experience. We caught up with the GM Christopher Moore, as well as the head chef Tyler Demora, to discuss the pressure that comes with creating that first impression, plus how to properly introduce new items to the menu, and the difficulties of trying to please everyone.

How would you describe the focus of Public Kitchen & Bar?
CM: After being in the Renaissance Hotel for five years now, our owners push us to be consistent, and pay close attention to detail.
TD: With so many great restaurants in Providence, how do you separate yourself? I believe that’s my personal focus as a chef – to try to give Providence something it doesn't have. We try to take care of every diner as if they’re eating in our own homes.

How do you feel that Providence has impacted Public Kitchen?
TD: We sit on top of Capitol Hill, overlooking our State House. It’s a beautiful view.
CM: The political scene can affect us from year to year. A lively political season can certainly change the flow as well as election years.
TD: We need to show our diners what Providence can achieve as one of the top food cities in the country. Since Providence is so well-renowned for its great dining scene, our diners (mostly hotel guests) have high expectations... and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way.

How do you develop new menus?
TD: Our new Fall Menu [recently] kicked off. And actually, I redid the entire menu. I added hand-rolled pastas and pizza, composed entree selections, oysters, outrageous new England cheeses, and a heritage pork plate – where we make a nice porky charcuterie plate. When I write menus, I start with seasonality and what's available. [I consider] the concept of the restaurant I’m writing the dish for and “Can my kitchen and staff handle the dish?”

When you do decide to introduce new items, what is the balance between satisfying regulars, and forging new directions?
CM: We want to cater to the traveler, the local, as well as the guest that’s attending a show at The Veterans Memorial Auditorium, which is right next door. This is why our menu is a little more diverse.
TD: It’s hard to take a dish off the menu that does so well. You always second-guess yourself when you make that decision. It’s a push-and-pull feeling as a chef; you want to make everyone happy – not just the diners but your kitchen staff as well. You need to keep it exciting for them and make sure everyone (including myself) is continuing to learn. When I wrote the menu for Public, I knew it had to be genuine and well-conceived, I knew I had to make sure most of dishes on the menu [were dishes that] people knew and could relate to.

If you had a mission statement at PK&B, what would that be?
CM: [We provide] an elegant setting where one can enjoy a burger and chicken wings, or dine on a Filet Mignon. Our web site describes who we are perfectly: “Throughout the space of Public, a modernist sensibility is blended with a classic American, Newport mansion drawing room theme. Public’s masculine and warm setting will be a meeting place for hipsters and Senators alike…”
TD: Food for the people.