Getting Into the Spirit with Church Bar

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Upon arrival, it’s very likely the host will offer a tour. Do not decline; the short tour showcases the space’s porosity and the way it flows easily and without barriers. There are still features from the building’s previous incarnation as a Baltimore rowhome. My favorite is a small window between the dining room and kitchen. The window, once on the back of the house, now offers diners the pleasure of peeking directly into the bustling kitchen.

The tables in the dining room, the furniture on the deck, the construction of the bar, the sanding and finishing of the pews, were all task that Gregoire took into their own hands. Church is a labor of love.

The bar menu is Gregoire’s “greatest hits.“ Meticulously conjured shrubs and syrups mix gently with liquors sourced locally and afar. Chelsea explains they want to create an experience that is approachable but also introduce a new ingredient wherever possible. Chelsea says sometimes the experience in new cocktail bars and restaurants can be too niche and the experience can cause a guest to becomes tense. “Hospitality is a way of life, and you experience hospitality whether you go to a restaurant or a coffee shop, or an office that’s designed for your body or you go to your grandmother’s house,” they say.

Church has been open for two months and already things have changed. Gregoire says the power dynamic is evolving. In the kitchen, there is no hierarchy.  Power is shared equally among those working the line to execute the resident chef menu. It was presumed that leaders would arise naturally from the pool of candidates working in the kitchen. Instead, left to their own design, the kitchen is leaderless and non-hierarchical. Each night before service, the kitchen announces who will be the expo.

Gregoire says they are efficient and even more importantly than that, they are all happy. Since everyone in the kitchen has chosen to share responsibility equally, the search for executive sous chef and sous chef has been discarded. In exchange, Gregoire invites them all to rewrite the roles and responsibilities to share equally and instead of paying one person more money, they can split that pay increase among everyone on the team. Historian C.L.R. James sums this up perfectly in his famous quote, “every cook can govern,” an adage widely known from his 1950’s pamphlet on direct democracy.

 

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