Chefs Nico Monday & Amelia O’Reilly

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | September 16th, 2010 | Chef Interviews

What is better than one talented chef with creative ideas?  Obviously, two chefs!  The Market Restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is the creation of chefs, Nico Monday and Amelia O’Reilly.  Opening on June 4th, the restaurant has enjoyed a successful first season.

Each chef has his/her own unique, yet intertwined, culinary background.  Chef Amelia earned her credentials at California Culinary Academy.  Chef Nico has worked in restaurants, starting at the age of thirteen.  He received his training via apprenticeships stateside and in France and Italy.  The chefs met while working in varying culinary roles at Chez Panisse in Berkley, California.

After spending several years at Chez Panisse, it was time for them to move onto new horizons.  Amelia and Nico took some inspiration from Chez Panisse, such as using farm fresh ingredients and creating the menu (daily!) based on ingredient availability, and created The Market Restaurant.  Finding a great waterside location that was available for lease, they began the physical process of opening their own restaurant.

While both of them had plenty of experience in the culinary side of the restaurant business, opening their own restaurant provided them with plenty of learning curves.  However, even with new things to learn and a short timeframe for opening (a mere 20 days), they were successful.  Enlisting the help of Nico’s brother, Oliver, they located farms and fish mongers from which they could get their produce, meats, and more.

During the summer months, the restaurant served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The two chefs worked together to create all dishes on the menu while Nico gathered their ingredients.  With the start of the school year and end of the tourist season, the restaurant switched to dinner only.  As the building is not designed for winter use, they will be closing in October and will reopen next May.  Meanwhile, they continue to build a creative menu on a daily basis.

On the day of my visit, I was able to peruse several recent menus.  The delicious array of options amazed me:  heirloom tomato salad with aioli, Wellfleet oysters with mignonette, local tuna steak au poivre, corn soufflé with collard greens and beans, poached Russell Orchards pear with Down River vanilla ice cream.

To create a menu such as this requires a sgnificant amount of effort.  During the rush of summer in which the two chefs cooked three meals a day, the help of Oliver was essential.  He traveled to numerous farms each week to gather their ingredients.  Now that they serve only dinner, Nico and Amelia make the trips to the farms part of their workday.  Although traveling to the farms requires more time, it has a benefit.  The chefs are able to make connections with the farmers and speak with them about their crops.  They learn what crops will be harvested in the near future, which helps with menu planning.

Working with small farms forms a symbiotic relationship.  The farms have guaranteed buyers.  The restaurant knows the quality of the produce and meats they will receive.  Some of the farms even have asked for Amelia and Nico’s input for next year’s seed orders.

As Nico and Amelia value the importance of farms, they are Founding Circle members of American Farmland Trust’s Dine Out for Farms.  This week-long event, held October 10-16, will highlight the bounty of the harvest and the importance of farms.  To learn more about this national event, please visit their website.

A menu created daily using only fresh and local  produce, meats, and fish; members of the Founding Circle; strong relationships built with local farmers, it seems obvious that Chef Amelia and Chef Nico have made The Market Restaurant a success in its first season.

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