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Chef David McIntyre on CUT's First Year in London

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Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one year anniversary.

OYI-David_McIntyre_CUT-1000.jpgLast fall, Wolfgang Puck opened his very first restaurant in all of Europe at the Dorchester Collection's new 45 Park Lane hotel in London. While it was a familiar concept for the company — a fourth location of the popular CUT steakhouse — there was plenty to learn about a new market.

Fortunately, CUT at 45 Park Lane had a seasoned Wolfgang Puck employee in executive chef David McIntyre, who has been the company for almost 14 years and had previously served as opening chef for two other Wolfgang Puck restaurants. On the occasion of the restaurant's first anniversary, McIntyre talks about applying the concept to London, the review process and his hopes to earn a Michelin star for the restaurant's second anniversary.

Why did you make the move to London?
I've always wanted to live abroad. [My wife and I] had a one year old, so it was kind of perfect timing to move a family and not have a big impact on schooling. It was just a fantastic opportunity with Wolfgang's first restaurant opening in London and Europe. I couldn't ask for really a bigger and better opportunity. We jumped at the chance.

Tell me about setting up shop at 45 Park Lane.
I moved here in January 2011 and we didn't open until September. So I was here about seven months ahead of the opening as a Wolfgang Puck representative. It was more about setting up the Wolfgang Puck operation here, finding purveyors and doing all the market research. London's a completely different city than anything we've ever opened. It took a long time setting up the structure of the kitchen, recruiting people, finding purveyors and just getting everything set up.

What was it like taking the CUT concept and applying that to London? Were there any changes you had to make?
This is the first concept that we are the only F&B outlet for the whole hotel. Obviously, the CUT concept is focused around dinner, but we had to expand it for breakfast, lunch, in-room dining, overnight service as well as doing all the amenities for the rooms. It was a great creative challenge because we had a lot to worry about and a lot to expand on. I think the basic CUT concept is in tact and it was really evolving it. It really gave us a chance to expand what we were doing.

You said London is such a different market. How were things different?
Think about our CUT restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We have our meat from the States, we use a Wagyu cross-bred from Snake River Farms, and then we import our meat from Australia and Japan and all that. Here was a little bit different. We went in saying we want to have meat from the United States as well as the Wagyu meat from abroad and then really have an amazing local supplier of meat.

The meat here is much, much different than we get in the States. It's all grass-fed. Some of it's finished on grain and corn, but it's a much leaner piece of meat. And a lot of it's a stronger flavor, a little bit gamey. So within the first four months of being here, I literally sampled over 100 different pieces of meat from different farms around England and Scotland. We finally settled on a couple farms out in Devon. They're producing some pretty amazing meat for us.

But in regards to setting up the purveyors here, obviously we had amazing partners in the Dorchester. You look at the restaurants next door, Alain Ducasse has a three-star restaurant here. I'm very close with Jocelyn [Herland], who is the chef there, and he was very open and helping me find the right products for what we're doing here. Chef Henry Brosi, who is the executive chef of the Dorchester, was just as helpful in steering me in the right direction. At the end of the day, it's really about meeting the purveyors, tasting their products and seeing what fit for us.

And how did the opening go? Were there any delays?
We were maybe a month delayed in the grand scheme of things, but it wasn't that bad. The restaurant did a soft opening in the sense that we weren't going to do 120 covers right off the start. We started at about 60 or 70 and ramped up from there, strictly because we were starting with five services right off the bat. So it was a lot to really train the staff on and get them up to speed. Everyone recruited was from the local market. We got two or three amazing sous chefs, we have a great pastry chef and kind of built a team around them.

What was it like in the first couple of days with all the shifts?
Like anything it's a little hectic at times, but at the end of the day I think we did a great job. Everyone was really pleased. The food went out in a timely manner. It was kind of like rolling into CUT Beverly Hills and having it been open for a year already. We did have a few people [from the Wolfgang Puck company] come over from the States and work with us for a week or two, just helping train our chefs. That's obviously a great resource to pull from.

And how about the review process there? How did it go?
They're on top of it, I'll tell you. They don't wait. I think we had our first reviewer in the first weekend we were open. I can't even tell you how many reviews we've had, but we had a lot of people come in within the first three months of us opening. We got very good reviews all across the board. I think what we've brought to London was kind of an elevated American steak restaurant, which didn't exist. I think we did a great job melding with the London market. So far so good.

Have you made any changes throughout the year?
Obviously we have a seasonal menu. I think we've had to be a lot more conscious of that because in California, the tomato season is four or five months long. The seasons change here a lot more frequently. Every two months you're revamping the menu and putting new items on. The availability of produce and fresh seafood here is amazing. It's just like any other major city: you can get whatever you want whenever you want it.

Anything that didn't quite work operationally?
We have a very small kitchen, so within the first two months we had already decided that we needed to expand and put some new refrigeration in and all that. But that's just a normal process of getting into a space and seeing what works and what doesn't. We ended up putting a whole new prep kitchen in the basement level of the hotel just because we needed it. We found out quickly that we were going to be a very busy restaurant and we needed more prep and storage area.

Does it feel like it's been a year?
You know, time flies. We just celebrated our year anniversary and we had a ceremony in the kitchen with everyone. Most of our staff has been here since the opening. It's great to think it has been a year. It's not to say that we didn't have our bumps along the way, but everyone really loves what we do and everyone for the most part is really happy. It's been a great success.

Is there anything up for the restaurant in the next year or going forward?
Obviously long-term we're looking possibly to get a Michelin star. That's what we want. They just released the Michelin guide a couple of weeks ago. But within the first year it gives you an idea of where you stand in the local market and in regard to standards. There's always room for improvement, both on food and service. It takes a year sometimes to work out the kinks. You're only as good as your last meal, so it's challenging everyone to stay focused and continue pushing forward.

I think that's the goal for the next year, is to get a Michelin star. If it happens, it happens. We have three rosettes, which is another rating system here, a great accomplishment within the first year of opening. There were no expectations. We're here cooking to make sure the customers are happy and doing it because we love cooking. If awards come, awards come. It's not the end-all, be-all.

· CUT at 45 Park Lane [Official Site]
· All CUT Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All One Year In Coverage on Eater [-E-]

David McIntyre [Photo: Dorchester Collection]

CUT at 45 Park Lane

45 Park Lane, Mayfair, London

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