From the outside, the building housing The Chef’s Table in Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward neighborhood still looks like a small industrial facility, complete with fading painted signs on the brick walls.
But inside is an immersive, contemporary customer experience, with the dining room, bar, lounge and kitchen all in one room. Veteran chef David Magnasco bought the building with a vision for a private dining and event space. He even lives upstairs. The public area would need to meld front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house in an appealing and absolutely useful way.
The Kitchen Spot Expert Fein Brothers was the ideal choice for equipping the facility. For one thing, the company is itself headquartered in a historic building full of character. More important, says company president Todd Minkin, the operation brought its 90 years of experience to the project. “Most of what we sell today are commodity items, and so the only thing we have to offer our customers is our knowledge and what we believe to be an extremely high level of service,” he says. “We go above and beyond for our customers.”
The involvement started even before the build out. Ben Minkin, Todd’s cousin and the VP of sales for Fein Brothers, got word of Magnasco’s concept from his brother, who served as the broker on the real estate deal.
When the time came to install the heart of the place, Fein Brothers was ready.
“We built a commercial kitchen for him, just like we would build for anyone,” Ben says. “The only difference is that it’s smack dab in the middle of the dining room.”
Magnasco, like other passionate entrepreneurs, took on some of the finer details himself. Fein Brothers installed a beautiful 14-foot CaptiveAire hood system, for in-stance, which the chef then had clad in copper.
“Aesthetics are very important to the overall feel of the place,” Ben says. “When you are sitting there eating dinner, you’re literally 15 feet away from the kitchen. There’s a wall about four feet high but other than that it is wide open. You can see everything.”
Not quite off the rack.
Contributing to the charm of the Chef’s Table are its eccentricities. When the Fein Brothers staff find an old butcher block, they know Magnasco will take it off their hands and refurbish it. “When he first bought the building,” Ben remembers, “we had a large used metal pot rack. And he kept looking at it. And finally I was like, ‘Dude, you can have it.’”
Today, transformed into a kind of artistic chandelier, the pot rack hangs over the main dining room table.
Have a party.
When Ben’s parents were coming up on their 50th anniversary, he and his brother knew it was time to do something special—something timeless, with great ambience, interactivity and privacy.
“We did it at David’s place,” Ben says. “We had 30 or 40 people there, a cocktail hour, speeches and dinner. It was really awesome.”