If you are an observer of the restaurant game, you’ve certainly followed recent reports of ex-Cargill exec Jim Ringo’s plans to open his first two restaurants in successive months this spring. Ringo’s bold gambit has the food and restaurant community abuzz. You gotta be awed by ambition this bold:
--One of the concepts, Forum, will open in the old Goodfellow’s site in City Center. The preserved interior was built for the Forum Cafeteria back in the early 20th century. The space has stymied the efforts of successful restaurateurs such as Wayne Kostroski (Tejas) and John Rimarcik (Monte Carlo). Critics extol it, but it has struggled in each of its past iterations, and many observers think the museum-like art deco room is the problem.
--Ringo’s other restaurant, the ambitious namesake Ringo, will open in the West End development, home to a variety of familiar local and national brands purveying comfort fare for patrons on the way to or from Rainbow and the movies. Rarely does a concept this ambitious open in a mall site that has already been “branded” by chains and bars and home to a built-in clientele, there for other things.
--A third of both restaurants’ menus will change monthly. Ringo’s from one continent to another, Forum’s from one American region to another. I can’t think of another restaurant of this size (280 seats), locally or nationally, that attempts to rewrite so much of a menu so frequently.
-- The culinary skill required to serve compelling and authentic cuisine representing nations as diverse as France, Morocco, Brazil, and Korea, as Ringo intends to, is prodigious. Even trying to cook authentic Kentucky burgoo, Maine cod cakes, New Mexican green chili, and Texas brisket in the same kitchen would be an amazing feat.
--Ringo’s chefs, Christian Ticarro (Forum, ex-Canyon Grille) and Ryan Aberle (Ringo, ex-NorthCoast), will also serve as general managers of the restaurants, responsible for all areas of operation. This is antithetical to the industry common wisdom that chefs are impractical artistes, indifferent to the multiplicity of factors that make restaurants work for diners.
Mr. Ringo has been quoted suggesting that the restaurant industry may not be all that efficient and hangs on to some stodgy practices. He’s surely right. If he can reinvent the wheel to the extent he intends, and make money at it, he will be the keynote speaker in every industry conference for the next decade.
Forum and Ringo will be sampling their wares at our annual Best of the Best party on Feb. 15 at the Guthrie Theater. I suspect chefs Ticarro and Aberle will be in attendance. Why not join us and draw your own conclusions?