Unfussy Classics, Kid-Friendly Brunch, and Dessert First at RFK Kitchen
UPDATE, February 24, 12:45 p.m.: RFK Kitchen officially announced today that Stacy Cogswell is on board as chef de cuisine.
“We are thrilled to welcome one of Boston’s most talented female chefs to the RFK Kitchen culinary team,” Rachel Klein said in a statement. “Stacy demonstrated her kitchen expertise as a Bravo TV Top Chef: Boston cheftestant where she garnered praise and accolades from the prestigious judges. Cogswell continued to impress the industry and guests with her innovative and thoughtfully composed dishes during her time at Liquid Art House … At RFK Kitchen, she returns to the kitchen with her friend and colleague, Rachel Klein. They are looking forward to getting back in the kitchen together and creating exciting and delicious food for the town of Needham when they open in just a few months.”
Rachel Klein announced plans to open her own restaurant in Needham this year, and her suburban destination RFK Kitchen is taking shape for an anticipated early April debut. The former Liquid Art House executive chef is joined by sous chef Quang Tran, as well as her friend Stacy Cogswell, a former Top Chef contestant and chef at Barcelona Wine Bar, whose “flavors just pop.”
Klein cemented her place on the Boston culinary landscape in the mid-00s, when she moved here from Providence to open the short-lived OM in Harvard Square. After fine dining stints at the Mandarin Oriental and Seaport hotels, she was opening chef at the evocative art gallery-meets-French brasserie. But the mother of two, a Needham resident since 2007, is ready to bring things a little closer to home.
Her first ownership venture, a joint effort with business partner Francesco Melandri, will be an approachable, family-friendly, yet edgy restaurant in her community. It’s just a smart business decision, the Brooklyn native says.
“I left New York City to go to Providence. I saw such potential in that town; now it’s blooming, culinary-wise,” she says. “I love providing a service, being a first, finding smaller areas that want these types of restaurants or amenities.”
RFK Kitchen will be a neighborhood spot suitable for several visits a week: From a multi-course dining experience, to a burger and a beer, drinks with coworkers, or lunch with the kids, she says. Now under construction in Needham Center, the 99-seat restaurant will have an expansive chef’s counter overlooking the open kitchen, for guests who want front row access to the culinary action.
“People like to see chefs in the kitchen, especially if they have notoriety,” the 2006 Best of Boston Best New Chef says.
The food will be reinterpreted classics—not comfort food, she stresses, and not fussy. “It’s what I want to eat every day.” RFK Kitchen was granted a full liquor license, and Klein says the bar program list will be “familiar, but creative enough to keep people engaged.”
Klein and her team are working on the menu now, including appetizers, entrees, and shared plates at the bar, flavored with the global influences she’s known for. Expect things like scampi, oven-roasted veggies, spreads, grilled calamari, tartines, like a vegetarian wild mushroom and herb open-faced sandwich; rotisserie chicken and other specials, “a great burger,” and build-your-own salads and grain bowls.
“We’re definitely paying attention to healthy options,” Klein says. “I don’t think it’s a trend. It’s the new reality that people need and expect healthy options.”
That said, there will be a big focus on dessert, from a yet-unnamed, “insanely creative and talented” baker: “We’re going to have desserts on the menu first, before savory items, because life is short,” Klein says. Some items will be cooked to order, so choosing before dinner is necessary. Those could include tarte tatines and a variety of cookies.
Brunch will eventually be a focus, too, with a baked good retail component, and mains like shakshuka, chilaquiles, banana pancakes, and breakfast-y tartines. Once a month, the morning meal will be a ticketed party for families called Green Eggs & Jam. The 24 seats will be removed from the chef’s counter, replaced with buffet spread of kid-friendly fare, Klein says. Other family-friendly amenities include bento boxes for little ones, and a childcare partnership with art and ceramics studio, the Kids Place, in Needham. They’ll open late one night a week for “date night,” and there will also be a drop-off program so parents can enjoy a mid-week, child-free lunch, Klein says.
This fall, Klein handed over the reigns at Liquid Art House to Clio alum Doug Rodrigues.
“Originally, the plan was that I would stay on as a consultant or in some capacity, but I wanted to focus on this project 100 percent,” she says. “It’s my initials on the door.”
RFK Kitchen, opening spring 2016, 948 Great Plain Ave., Needham; rfkkitchen.com. Get a taste of Klein’s cooking Tuesday, February 2, at “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a pop-up to benefit New England Center and Home for Veterans; 6:30-9 p.m., Outlook Kitchen + Bar at the Envoy Hotel, 70 Sleeper St., Boston; $48.47, Eventbrite.