by Bill Batson
In the culinary arts, presentation is as important as preparation. With table service precluded by the social distancing measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, restaurants must find new ways to present their formerly plated masterpieces to the public. 8 North Broadway was one of the first kitchens in Nyack to successfully transition from a la carte to cardboard box.
As early as March 12–ten days before New York instituted the shelter in place order that expires in parts of the state this Friday–Executive Chef Constantine Kalandranis was already serving as many to-go orders as sit-down dinners. My fiancé Marisol and I were there planning the meal for our June wedding that would soon be postponed. We witnessed Constantine stoically absorbing the cancellation of months of reservations and catering gigs, while boxing meals for anxious families.
Here’s how a past natural disaster prepared Constantine to pivot so quickly from sit down to pickup and delivery.
When 8 North Broadway opened in the fall of 2012, just days after Superstorm Sandy, you focused on feeding first responders for several days rather than patrons. How did that influence community relationships in town? And how did that shape your outlook as a business owner?
Yes, it was one of those things where we had bought the building and closed the deal the night before the treacherous storm. We were one of the few buildings untouched by Sandy and for some weird reason, we never lost power. We felt so thankful that we had a growing moment where we made chili for people in town and served hot water and lemon and had people come in and charge their phones… it was really cool and we got to meet the neighborhood at a time when we all had to really pull together.
How does COVID-19 feel similar to Sandy?
We have been thorough crises before in our restaurant path. COVID -19 is definitely a more intense and sad story than past occurrences. What doesn’t change is that these moments are what level the playing field for all of us and help us remember what we have to be thankful for. Taking things for granted, racial and political divides, and even terrorism seem to have taken a back seat, and people are trying to unite the best way they know how.
What are you doing today that is helping Nyack survive and come together?
We have been doing our part as chefs do. We’ve participated in Nyack Nourishes. We have been cooking for hospitals once a week and trying to send out a donation once a week just to make the world turn. It is not always a first responder that needs the help–it can be a homeless person in town.
What does the future look like for 8 North Broadway and Nyack business generally?
It is a very scary time and I made the decision at a young age to cook and make people happy through food. I stand by that and was just thinking today that although things may never be the same, there is still an oath I made to myself to do my part whether we make money or not.
What were your early food influences and favorite food memories?
I think the memories of things I associated with comfort, like lemon roasted chicken and vegetables and dips, are things that I am really focusing on now. You may know we do $45 chicken dinner that feeds four people, and that is mostly because this was a dish that I remember making me and my family happy. It was just something we always had when we were together–delicious, nutritious and full of flavor and comfort. I grew up in Astoria, Queens, and from a very young age cooked with my grandma and my mother. Family meals were always a big deal and still are.
What was your culinary training? And early experiences in the restaurant world?
I have worked in every type of restaurant, from gyro joints to Michelin-starred establishments. I have been a dishwasher and a busboy. I have been a sous chef, partner, head chef, and owner. I had a good work ethic at a young age and put myself through two schools and paid for them in cash with my own money that I made working in restaurants. Other than that, we have dipped into virtual media, as well as small cooking programs, along the way.
What attracted you to the Hudson Valley?
Farms, incredible veggies, produce, and the neighborhood atmosphere were big factors in my immediate love for the Hudson Valley. Those are the very things that I also felt New York City was losing. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, which is in Dutchess County, and from that time on, the Hudson Valley was irresistible.
How did you come to open your first business in Nyack and what attracted you to Nyack?
I had an uncle on my wife’s side who knew of a building in a town that he thought I should look at. I peeked through a dirty window and saw a glimpse of a copper bar. I think that’s when I really fell in love with idea of making a change and investing the time into the neighborhood and Nyack generally. I loved the town, the community, and the warmth of the people.
You own 273 Kitchen in Harrison and have also opened other Westchester restaurants and are running a handful of Montauk restaurants. Describe those restaurants and their communities in comparison to Nyack.
We do the same thing in Harrison where we offer a family package of a protein like lemon chicken with all kinds of other goodies for $45. It is a great value for the neighborhood and we make zero money once all is said and done. But I look at it as our way of helping since we are not doctors or first responders. It is also showing the neighborhood that we are not a selfish restaurant group but one that has always focused on listening and filling the food needs of those who patronize us. We’ve been successful because we listen and care that people feel nourished and cared about when they come to 8 North Broadway or any of our restaurants.
What do you enjoy most and least about the restaurant business?
I enjoy the challenge that every day there is a catastrophe or a problem that makes you think and be creative.
I do not like the self-proclaimed critics of food and business who feel it is okay when you make a mistake to go blasting it on social media as if you had done something criminal… I learn to laugh at it, too, but it makes me very sad to see that. I have never seen that done so pointlessly with other professions and I think it is a great way to make a tense situation out of a business that is based on joy and eating. If there’s a problem in a restaurant, deal with it on the spot rather than ranting on social media.
What do you want people to know about you and 8 North Broadway?
I want them to know that we invest all of ourselves in our restaurants. While we are far from perfect and make plenty of mistakes, the things we do are for our guests and our team are very thoughtful and done with a lot of care. We base all our difficult decisions on careful thinking and the pursuit of a customer base that loves us, patronizes us often, and talks up their love for us to colleagues and friends. We want people to feel at home here, well-nourished, and cared about. We want them to feel great while here and when they leave.
What do you most enjoy eating?
Well, this is a funny story. Two competing restaurants, one in Nyack, the other in Harrison, are part of this story. In these difficult times, it is important to understand how we are all in this together as restauranteurs. And I think a lot of amazing food is coming out of these restaurants because we are focusing on the food and what brought us into the industry in the first place!
Lately, I have had amazing meals at these venues and will continue patronizing them in the future. I feel bonded to them, like we’ve been through a battle together as restaurateurs–we understand each other on a very basic level.
At Mumbai Dreams in Nyack, I got a delivery because I wanted to spend some money on a restaurant as people are with us. It was some of the more creative (Indian tacos) and traditional (saag) Indian food I have had–thoughtful and delicious–in spite of being in a to-go box!
At Dimitri’s Grill in Harrison, I had a traditional beef and lamb gyro that was great–brought me back to my childhood roots.
Learn and read more:
You can view 8 North Broadway’s pickup and delivery menu here
Also, learn more about Nyack Nourishes, a project that 8NB participates in that provides meals for the healthcare heroes working at Montefiore Nyack Hospital and the Nyack Community Ambulance Corps during the COVID-19 crisis while supporting local Nyack restaurants.
With public support, 50 individually boxed, full course meals are sent each day to our community doctors, nurses, medical staff and first responders, prepared by local businesses.
The ten participation Nyack Nourishes restaurants are 8 North, Casa del Sol, Didier Dumas, Hudson Market, Karenderya, Maura’s Kitchen, Mumbai Dreams, The Olde Village Inne, Strawberry Place, and Thai House.
To donate and learn more about this community effort, please visit NyackNourishes.com.
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