Carl Dooley faced some stiff competition this summer, when he filmed the current season of Top Chef. But now he’s facing an even tougher challenge: opening a new eatery in a ruthless restaurant market.
After working at Craigie on Main as well as acclaimed restaurants in Washington D.C. and England, Dooley says he’s more than ready to run the kitchen inside The Table at Season to Taste. The 20-seat Cambridge restaurant, which opened in mid-January, took over an event space previously operated by Robert Harris’ Season to Taste Catering. Chef/owner Harris and Dooley linked up in September, before an episode of Top Chef had even aired—but now he’s embracing increased visibility that could help business in a competitive field.
“I’ve been really happy with how I’ve been portrayed on the show,” Dooley says. “The food I’ve cooked so far comes across as delicious and interesting and exciting. Hopefully, people will see that and want to come see me and eat the food at the restaurant.”
Diners can choose from a four-course prix fixe menu ($65) that will change most nights. The cuisine is labeled contemporary French, but the ingredients will range from French to Indian to North African. Some of Dooley’s early favorites include a roasted sweet potato stuffed with oxtail ragu and Castelmagno cheese, a chili with kale and super-briny olives, and a terrine of smoked foie gras with duck heart and breast. In addition to 16 table seats and a four-seat chef counter, there is an eight-person wine bar area that will serve small plates to standing customers.
“One of the things that really attracted me to the space was the size. We have the ability to change things nightly and really offer the guests what’s best for the season and the best product we can get our hands on. If we can only get three black bass from the Cape, then we have enough for one night and we’ll pick the next fish the next night,” Dooley says. “I think the menu will have enough of a mix of funky stuff for real foodies and some interesting stuff that’s really approachable and delicious in surprising ways.”
The tiny space has an airy feel, with white walls, hardwood floors and a long banquette stretching the length of one wall. While the space and concept came together quickly thanks to Harris’ experience with Season to Taste, Dooley most fondly recalls tearing things apart.
“It was Halloween day, and we were all in there with hammers. We’re going to town on the tiles, and we pulled the bar out, and we all beat the shit out of the restaurant for 12 hours,” Dooley says. “And then we’re like, ‘OK, now, let’s rebuild it.’ ”
The Table at Season to Taste 2447 Mass. Ave., Cambridge (617-871-9468) cambridgetable.com