NYRI: What is the biggest difference in what you envisioned for Tailor originally and the kind of restaurant it wound up becoming in the end?
Sam Mason: I think that the idea matured over the course of the project. I do not really remember what we were talking about the theme being at the beginning. The space kind of controlled the way it finally came out. One of the first couple of spaces that we looked at would have been a whole lot different, but this space was sort of conditioned to be the kind of place it ended up being.
NYRI: How did you set out to make Tailor different than Room 4 Dessert, which has closed, or the new restaurant Graffiti?
Sam Mason: I guess probably for five minutes of my life I wanted to have a little dessert bar that had many efficiencies, but I think it is impossible to make money in that kind of venue. You need a place that has a whole lot of cocktails downstairs. There is just no sense in killing yourself to serve good food and not make any money, so to have a venue like we have downstairs needed to be part of the concept. It gives us a lot of freedom for the cuisine. Right now we are fine, but down the road you would like to generate enough revenue to not have to start cutting corners in the kitchen.
NYRI: The prices are very reasonable; do you think the prices are set about right?
Sam Mason: I would like my friends to come and eat here, because if they don’t I’m never going to be able to see them again! If it is too expensive and they don’t come to see me, I’ll be sad.
NYRI: Did Tailor’s sweet and savory concept require your team to work a little differently in the kitchen, or is it similar to how you worked at WD50?
Sam Mason: No, it is a totally original dynamic in the kitchen. Everyone is cross trained on every station. I do all the plating. I have a friend who is doing the expediting, because expediting here is a little more complicated than any other restaurant we have ever seen, just due to the fact that people can order as haphazardly as they want. At WD50, the most plates I have ever made was one hundred and ten. Our first night here, we put out about 200 plates, so it was like all of a sudden, you had no help in that department. It’s worked out pretty well so far, it is just that it can be exhausting. You look at the clock and you’re like, ‘is it over yet? But it’s only nine o’clock.
NYRI: Explain some of the flavor combinations you came up with in your current menu?
Sam Mason: Well, the foie is pretty amazing, the foie gras and peanut butter, I think they go together really well and then chocolate obviously plays a big part in that. And then the pickled pears and fresh peanuts. These are the first ones that I had kind of logged in my head as the concept was starting to evolve, it was one of the first things that I decided on. The pork belly, I think I came up with that about the same time. It was just perfect; miso, butterscotch, pork, and artichokes.
NYRI: How do you come up with those combinations?
Sam Mason: The mind’s eye is kind of a strange place. I just see it and kind of taste it in my head and then we just kind of tweak it with the secondary components. As time goes on we’d like to complicate those two menus a little more. It was always just to be able to have the sweet and salty line become a little blurrier than it is right now. As the menu evolves, I want that line to be a little more questionable; like there is no reason why the foie is on the salty side, it can probably be on the other side.
NYRI: How important was Evan Freeman to Tailor and the success here?
Sam Mason: Huge. I could not see this place without him, he is crucial. I have a lot of ideas in my head that involve libations and he is good at taking them and running with them. He takes any direction I have and he humors me; it usually works out pretty well.
NYRI: Can you see Tailor ever opening for lunch or will it remain an evening dining and cocktail destination?
Sam Mason: I have always wanted to do some sort of brunchy thing. Maybe I’ll do one day a month or maybe every weekend day, but that is the only thing I can see it translating into. The kitchen is so strapped right now, I cannot imagine another service.
NYRI: I’ve heard you were involved with a live show where you prepare dinner with a rock band, can you tell me about that?
Sam Mason: It’s exhausting, it’s a long two days of my life every month, but we have not done it in a while, I think we are going to start shooting again in October. I am the host and my producers are big in the Indie music scene and they bring in a different band in each show, and I make a meal that is kind of structured around them. It is a great project and they play live music. It is just on the Internet right now - you can download it to your iPod. The Food Network I think was interested and we just said that is probably not the right way to go, because on the internet you have more freedom.
NYRI: Besides the show, are there any other plans for you in the near future?
Sam Mason: No, this is the only baby I will have for a while. This is going to be encapsulating my life.