Brandon Baltzley on Life on Cape Cod After the 41-70
Brandon Baltzley was optimistic about the interior design of the former Phusion Grille, the Cape Cod restaurant he transformed into the 41-70 earlier this year.
“It’s very charming, and it has kind of a hippie feel,” he said in February, describing the 14-year-old waterfront spot in Woods Hole. He and his soon-to-be wife, Laura Higgins, had recently formed a partnership with restaurateur Carol Grigas to overhaul the menu and vision of the place.
But four months later, the chefs have left the 41-70, citing differences with ownership in a statement first reported by the Boston Globe. They will host a regular pop-up dinner series on an East Falmouth farm for the summer.
While Baltzley, Higgins, and the chefs they brought with them from places like New York and Boston were allowed to cook how they wanted to—with wild, foraged ingredients comprising dishes inspired by Native American, English, and Portuguese cuisine—the 41-70 remained stagnant around them, Baltzley says.
“We’re cooking the food in a place with posters of of Bob Marley and Reggae music playing on Pandora,” he says. “It didn’t make sense. That was a big problem for us, because as cooks and people that want to pioneer this type of food in this area, it’s got to be consistent from the moment you walk through the door to the moment you leave, and we weren’t able to do that there.”
The couple—who married inside the 41-70 on opening night—now plan to make a go of it on their own.
“We have very high standards. Coming from the restaurants we came from, we saw we can do it out here. And we can do it out here, we just need to do it for ourselves,” Baltzley says. “We’re moving forward because we felt like we can’t achieve what we set out to achieve.”
Higgins, a Falmouth native, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked at Le Quartier Francais in South Africa, Chicago’s Trenchermen, and Ribelle. Southern-born Baltzley developed his style in Michelin-starred kitchens in New York City, Chicago, and foraging around the legendary, self-sustaining Noma in Copenhagen. He was also co-chef at Tim Maslow’s Ribelle.
His leadership history, though, is marred by substance abuse problems, which he is candid about in a 2013 memoir, Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control. In 2014, Baltzley launched TMIP, a wild food, Native American-inspired, farm restaurant in Indiana, which closed within a couple weeks.
But he promises to do it right this time. TMIP was underfunded, he says, and with a new baby, there’s more on the line this time. “We’ve saved money, we’ve got investment interest from trusted people. We’ve built relationships and built support system in the community,” Baltzley says. “If it closes, there will be nobody else to blame other than ourselves.”
Baltzley and Higgins are currently looking at restaurant real estate around Mashpee and Falmouth, and in the meantime, they will launch the Buffalo Jump at Coonamessett Farm on Monday, July 4. Every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the 20-acre research farm will host two BYOB, five- or seven-course dinners. Many of the ever-changing dishes will be familiar to guests who visited the 41-70, and the day’s harvest will determine other plates.
“We have been growing food for the 41-70 since March, and that’s gotta go somewhere,” Baltzley says, adding the chefs will work with other area farms, too. A stripped-down, working menu starts with a welcome beverage—fermented drinks will be a focus—and offers fry bread with smoked fish and crudités, local seafood (like smoked oyster and beach rose) and game (maybe venison, or bison), and dessert like sumac ice cream, or corn pudding with beach plum.
Eventually, the couple’s new restaurant will be a permanent home for such fare. It will combine elements of TMIP and the 41-70, with open-fire cooking, a “rugged and simplistic vibe,” and cuisine that evokes a sense of place, Baltzley says.
The Buffalo Jump, Monday-Wednesday beginning July 4, 5 and 7:30 p.m., $70, Coonamessett Farm, 277 Hatchville Rd., East Falmouth, thebuffalojump.com.