Slowly But Surely, the Whisk Team Is Developing Brassica Kitchen + Café
Chefs Philip Kruta and Jeremy Kean—the duo behind the 5-year-old pop-up shop Whisk—finally moved into their own place earlier this year. Whisk at Fazenda hasn’t taken a day off since the chefs took over the Fazenda Coffee Roasters Café on January 6, but Kruta and Kean have been transforming the space into Brassica Kitchen + Café the whole time.
“We’re the Whisk team, and we own Fazenda Café, so that’s what it’s called right now,” Kean said in a recent interview. “The name, and what the sign is going to say when we finish the renovations, will be Brassica Kitchen + Café.”
In its current form, the doughnut-slinging, sandwich-toting coffeeshop is open daily until 3 p.m., then the chefs take on a different kind of job: Reconstructing the space to fit their vision. Kruta, the team’s pastry chef, is also a woodworker, and is currently constructing Brassica’s future bar and other furniture.
“We’re moving along: We’re finalizing the concept. Right now, we’re focused on building [the space], building the team. We did not have a lot of money when we took this over, so we’ve had to take things slow,” Kean said. “Though the reason we never closed is not so much a financial thing, but a neighborhood thing. It was a neighborhood joint people were relying on and really liked being at. It was a mix of not wanting to close and force people to go somewhere else, but also to get to know the neighborhood.”
Over the summer, the Whisk fellows hosted intermittent supper clubs and private tastings in the evening, but dinner is currently on hold as the chefs implement an all-alcohol license Brassica Kitchen + Café earned in mid-October, Kean said. Soon, the team plans to launch Saturday night dinner, but nightly meals probably won’t start until mid-April, Kean said. They plan to take their time introducing their concept to their new team and the neighborhood.
While they’ve hosted countless tasting events as Whisk—not to mention being the first six-month residency at Wink & Nod—their focus has evolved. “Over the last five years, [it’s] changed into how [we can] celebrate delicious depth of flavor, with semi-health consciousness and environmental consciousness to how we’re doing it,” Kean said.
The name “brassica” encompasses all of that. “Cabbage, broccoli, mustard greens, kohlrabi—there are tons of brassicas, and they all grow native in New England, as well as a lot of other places in the world,” Kean explained.
It being Latin word is also appropriate, as the team is inspired by French and Italian techniques, among other global cuisines they have learned over 15 years in the kitchen.
“Not that we’re not going to roll out foie gras torchon, or dry-aged beef, or make duck prosciutto; we are. But we want to celebrate what New England has to offer in terms of local food. We have relationships with farmers,” Kean continued. “We’ll probably do a really cool burger.”
He’s especially excited about the fermentation program that is coming to Brassica. “Come mid-winter when nothing is growing around here, we’ll still have all these great brassicas fermenting,” he said.
Fermentation will also play a role in the beverage program. Kean said he plans to work closely with the to-be-named beverage director. “I make a lot of shrubs, and I do a lot of foraging. I’ll go forage for autumn berries and I’ll macerate them and ferment them to 1.5-2-percent alcohol,” he said. “You can imagine a wooden shelf of mason jars of our own shrubs and wild ferments being the bases of our cocktails,” many made from locally-foraged ingredients. “When it comes to the wine and beer, our plan is mostly locally-brewed beer. The wine program will constantly change, based on what we’re cooking that week.”
By day, the café will continue. Whether guests want to stop in for morning coffee and a pastry, or hole up on comfortable lounge chairs at Kruta’s handmade, antique chestnut coffee table with a glass of wine and a laptop , ; or have a seasonal dinner, it will all be possible at Brassica.
“We’ve seen something similar in New York, but I haven’t totally seen a place where there’s a seven-course tasting menu next to someone playing a board game and drinking a beer,” Kean said. “It’s taken us [nearly] a year of owning and operating this café to find out what this neighborhood needs. We know what we want to cook and want to do, and now we know what our customer base needs. Our concept is a balance between the two things.”
Whisk at Fazenda (Brassica Kitchen + Café coming soon), 3710 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, Boston; 617-756-7571 or Facebook.