Ready for REDD
We get the scoop from the owners of the city’s most highly anticipated restaurant in years
When REDD opens in the reimagined former 2Vine space this summer, prepare for a taste of greatness. Yes, we naturally anticipate Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington to bring his high-level culinary chops and celebrated seasonal philosophy but also the expectation of exemplary service and elusive consistency—the hallmark of Michelin-starred chefs. Reddington has returned to his roots to be closer to family after globetrotting and working in some of the world’s greatest food and wine meccas, like France, New York City and northern California, for the past twenty-five-plus years. His journeys and on-the-job training included tutelage working with such heralded names as Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, and Roger Vergé.
After graduating from Pittsford Sutherland High School, Reddington attended Miami University of Ohio for business and then quickly took a career turn, following his passion for cooking in some of California’s lauded haunts and even volunteering for a year in Europe just for the experience. Reddington was most recently at the helm of restaurant REDD in Yountville, California, until its closing in 2018 after thirteen wildly successful years and one coveted Michelin star. He still owns the upscale pizzeria REDD WOOD, also in California’s Napa Valley.
Reddington exudes the cool confidence of a soft-spoken Robert Di Niro character with added chill Cali swag (sans the pretention one might expect from such a seasoned and acclaimed practitioner). I recently sat down with chef Reddington and local business partner Dennis Wilmot for a conversation about food, wine, and kitchen life.
Describe what REDD will be.
Reddington: We’ve been asked this a lot. A New American restaurant. Hopefully it will be a great American restaurant. It will represent this area of the country. A great Rochester restaurant. We don’t want to pound people over the head with everything Napa in either the food or décor. I’d love it to be the place where everyone goes. A fun bar vibe. Good ambiance. The nice way certain restaurants just seem to flow through the chefs and through the design. Where what’s on the plate is delicious. Where the hospitality is great. That’s what we want to do.
Characterize the offerings at the new REDD.
Reddington: I’ll be bringing some of the staples and signature dishes from REDD and REDD WOOD, like California-style wood-fired pizza, but with a sensibility for upstate New York. There’ll be a lot of live fire for grilled and roasted meats and grilled fish. Pasta. Maybe a rendition special of chicken French or a late-night take on a garbage plate. It’s not going to be tweezer food. There may even be some offerings with ethnic influence—Asian, German, or Spanish. There will be a separate bar menu with approachable classics like burgers and wings as well as my favorites from the past like lobster risotto with lemon confit; scallops with cauliflower and almonds; and glazed pork belly with apple puree, soy, and caramel.
Wilmot: One thing I’ve learned is that the term “farm to table” is taken for granted a bit. I’ve learned through Rick that the menu should be seasonal and if the ingredients are great you don’t need the complexity of all the other stuff.
Reddington: In Napa, if [a tourist] asks for a tomato on their hamburger in February, locals will say, “It’s February; there aren’t any tomatoes around.”
What will the wine/beverage program
Reddington: It won’t be quite as deep as Napa Valley, but it will have FLX, Napa, Sonoma, and old-world wines. We would really like to pride ourselves on the wine program. Wines will most importantly be food wines. We want to turn people on to some different Spanish and Italian wines with the idea of enjoyment without being pretentious. The sommelier from REDD Napa will put together the opening wine list, and Dennis will have a hand in the development as well. We will be looking for full-time soms as we move forward. There will an exclusive Meritage-Cab blend offering I’m also involved with, Dominus—aptly named REDD. There is a great bar culture here in Rochester. We will offer some craft cocktails but mainly focus on just making great cocktails. Along with the wine program there will be a nice beer program. I’ve been really impressed with the local craft beer scene.
What type of staff/culinary team do you
Reddington: First of all, we will look for excitement, personality, and professionalism in staff that are ready to learn and work in a regimented system. There is a right way and a wrong way to do most things. Especially with the service aspect of the business. It is of the utmost importance. The food can be great, but if you have bad service, it’s all for naught.
What would your staff say about you?
Reddington: Fair. Hardworking. Fun. I had a reputation a long time ago of being an old-school screamer. You, know, coming up through that system in France. But you can’t do that anymore. It’s not healthy. It’s about teaching and inspiring the chefs in a disciplined way.
How did you decide to get into the restaurant business?
Wilmot: If you’d asked me few years ago, I wouldn’t have foreseen that I’d be in the restaurant business. I’ve been fortunate to experience a number of great restaurants and food that have cultivated an appreciation for great food and service. The genesis for this opportunity was in part when 2Vine closed. The space was right, Richard was making some changes in Napa, and I made some career changes here in Rochester. It felt like the right time for both of us. Our skill sets complement each other. You don’t want me in the kitchen, but I am very comfortable with the work necessary to get the project up and running. It’s very exciting.
Does REDD fill a void here in town?
Wilmot: Having grown up in Rochester, the restaurant scene has significantly evolved over the years from a handful of restaurants in the eighties, to the abundant terrific options with homegrown concepts we have today. Notable restauranteurs, including Jerry Vorrasi and Charlie Fitzsimmons, were on the forefront of the new scene. It’s a very exciting time. Richard brings a culinary talent and experience that should elevate the game in Rochester.
How does receiving a star change your approach?
Reddington: I never thought I would open a Michelin-star restaurant, but once you get it, it certainly brings more attention. You just keep doing what you are doing. You do what you do every day. Be consistent. Everyone having a good time is important to me. If everyone continues to say they had a good time, then you know the food and service had to be good.
What is the commonality among Michelin-star restaurants?
Reddington: Consistency is very important. The chefs whose restaurants get (three) stars have a singular purpose. They are animals. Focus. Attention to detail. A quest like no other. Hard work. Not missing a beat. Hiring the right people. Training. Taking care of staff.
Can you compare Napa to the Finger Lakes? Are we on their radar out there?
Reddington: Not really. Not yet. Finger Lakes, Long Island, or Australian wines won’t sell in Napa. There are 480 wineries in Napa Valley now. It’s 97 percent developed. Land goes for $400k an acre there. It’s a lot different. The Finger Lakes is on the cusp with great potential, considering the growers, renowned agriculture programs, hospitality programs, etc.
What do you like to eat?
Reddington: I like everything. My last meal would be twelve perfectly shucked oysters with mignonette. I love the simplicity of a beautifully roasted steak —perfectly cooked and simply seasoned. Seasonal fare like asparagus, morel mushrooms, roast chicken, or a beautiful piece of fish.
How about our local favorites?.
Reddington: I do love white hots. Country Sweet wings I like—like a bad habit. A golf magazine interviewed me once about golf, food, and drink. I mentioned the famous vodka wedge and a white hot at the turn at the Country Club of Rochester.
Where have you been exploring since being back in town?
Reddington: I just bought my first truck. I’m enjoying exploring our region. Finding the best farmers markets and best local vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. I never really ventured to Geneva or Ithaca when I used to live here, so looking forward to that. Spent some time checking out spots like Good Luck, Rocco, and Swan Market. Next Door Grill & Bar. Pizza Stop. Joey’s on Main. Of course Thirsty’s.
Any final thoughts?
Reddington: I’m really looking forward to the pride and satisfaction in being able to cook for family, friends, and people I grew up with, as well as people I’ve never met. I became a chef because I liked the idea of getting people together. I want to please every guest.
Richard Reddington is the featured chef at the fourth annual SAVOR! event on Tuesday, June 18 to benefit Rochester Regional Health’s Because Care Matters campaign and the Sands-Constellation Center for Critical Care. Tickets are available here.
Vince Press is a seasoned freelance writer, PR guy, and food and beverage enthusiast who will do just about anything for good bourbon or Asian noodles.