“We could have done any number of things, a nice farmers’ market or a convenience store. But my background is in restaurants and so that was the base of my idea. I was trying to wrap my brain around what kind of restaurant could work and help the community.
I became more familiar with Braddock and all these beautiful things that already existed. For example, Braddock Farms, which is a subsidiary of Grow Pittsburgh, has been there for years. It’s this beautiful two-acre urban farm in a beautiful post-industrial backdrop [with] a beautiful award-winning apiary that makes delicious honey that I’ve used in all of my restaurants. We have chickens down there that are producing tons of eggs. We have a rooftop 1,000-square foot greenhouse that happened to come with the building [and] 4,000 square feet of a raised bed garden on the roof of the building. We have a convent that has been restored to a beautiful hostel, and we’re going to be able to use it for free housing for our staff and interns and students. All these things, it’s like they were there already.
I had experience doing volunteer work in the Summer with the Braddock Youth Project. There are all these young people who are passionate about food and farming and Braddock, but odds are that they wouldn’t be given the opportunity to pursue that after high school. So John and I started to put together this idea, well, how do we incorporate a culinary/farming training program? We work directly with Braddock Redux, which is the nonprofit that does job training in neighboring areas, so we would have people that are educators. All these resources exist already, so we just felt the last piece of the puzzle was a delivery system. And we felt that the best way to show all of these beautiful things to the world would be through a restaurant.”