Australian-born chef Shaun Hergatt has done well for himself in New York City. His restaurant where he was chef and partner, SHO Shaun Hergatt at the Setai Hotel in the city’s financial district, was awarded two Michelin stars, scored 29 out of 30 across the board in the Zagat Survey, and was named a “best new restaurant” in both Esquire and New York magazine after it opened in 2009.
But he left the restaurant a couple of months ago and has teamed up with Jimmy Haber and Keith Treyball’s ESquared Hospitality, where he has been named executive chef and principal.
“Principal’s a good thing,” Hergatt said of his new position, adding that his job is “to build the future of this company.”
ESquared operates 11 BLT steaks, six other BLT concepts that include BLT Fish and BLT Bar & Grill in New York City, plus two Italian restaurants and the Go Burger chain, which has brick-and-mortar locations in New York and Los Angeles and one truck in New York.
But Hergatt’s job is to develop new concepts, the first of which, Juni, is slated to open in the Hotel Chandler in Midtown Manhattan the first quarter of 2013.
“Jimmy [Haber]’s great at finding the deal and getting the real estate, and my job is to have fresh ideas, interesting price points and interesting food concepts,” Hergatt said, adding that he is drawing inspiration from fine dining chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller, who have created different restaurants at different price points and service styles, ranging from fine dining restaurants such as Boulud’s Daniel and Keller’s Per Se and The French Laundry, to casual places such as Boulud’s DBGB and Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.
“If you have the chance to develop new concepts you have to show what you’ve got,” Hergatt said.
The name of the first new concept, Juni, is Latin for the month of June, and the 50- to 60-seat fine dining restaurant’s focus will be on seasonal ingredients, particularly vegetables.
“I’m looking at six different menu changes throughout the year,” Hergatt said. “Food is at its peak for only a certain time. If tomatoes are only at their best for two months, we’ll be able to change the menus for that,” he said. “When the strawberries are ripe, we’ll really feature them as a star on the plate. When summer comes and we have these fantastic artichokes, there’s nothing like eating the artichoke for what it is.”
Hergatt plans to offer an 11-course tasting and a 6-course vegetable tasting at Juni, as well as à la carte service.
Further down the road are farm-to-table concepts, brasseries, and a fish-focused restaurant, Hergatt said. SHO is on the agenda for a reopening, too, once a great location in Midtown Manhattan is found for it, Hergatt said.
“SHO had great success and it was a really wonderful restaurant, but the location was a challenge,” he said. “To work with Jimmy [Haber] at getting a great location is a very nice thing.”
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary