Chef Aaron Thayer doesn’t want to be tied down to any theme for the restaurant he and Abby Fuhrman, his wife and business partner, will be opening at Thornes Marketplace in Northampton.
The 32-year-old chef and Hadley native has cooked across cuisines, from Asian to French, and worked in restaurants on both the east and west coasts. His dishes, instead of being linked to a specific region or nationality, will be influenced by his years of experience in fine dining, he said.
“All of my food is a representation of my experiences, and that’s not necessarily thematic,” Thayer said. “My food and the menu will encompass all my experiences in food.”
Patria, is expected to open in the spring on basement floor of Thornes Marketplace in the space formerly occupied by the wine bar ConVino, which closed its doors in August.
Not much will remain of the former wine bar other than its sturdy wooden bar. New kitchen equipment will be coming to the space along with a slew of other changes, including new light fixtures and décor, a fresh coat of paint over the dining room’s maroon-colored walls and whitening the site’s exposed brick. There will be “half as many colors,” Thayer said.
Thayer and Fuhrman, a 29-year-old social worker, previously planned to open a restaurant called Hunt & Gather in Easthampton at the end of 2019. Due to “cost-prohibitive” renovation estimates from contractors, though, the couple changed their plans.
The couple still owns the Union Street space, where they rent out three apartments. Thayer and Fuhrman said they are also looking for a tenant for the commercial space at the site.
“We definitely were disappointed,” said Thayer. “Easthampton’s an up-and-coming community, and there’s a lot to be said about the restaurant scene there, but I definitely think Northampton’s a little bit safer of a bet in a way.”
Northampton residents are hungry for a new restaurant, he added, and the city is in “dire need” of a rejuvenation.
“Bigger picture, bringing great food to the valley, adding to the great food that’s in the valley, Northampton and Easthampton are going to bounce off each other,” Fuhrman said.
Wednesday afternoon, the Northampton couple was at the site of their future restaurant, shuffling boxes and looking at the space before renovations are soon made. Thayer and Fuhrman have been in the planning stages of developments for the past few months and are looking forward to now bringing their own changes to the space.
“We’ve made every decision that we have to make,” said Fuhrman. “Now, it’s just putting paint on the walls.”
The couple is hoping to give Patria a modern, relaxed feel, which some may classify as “New American,” according to Thayer. But the restaurant’s main focus will be on quality service, he said.
“The theme is that Aaron’s food is great,” Fuhrman joked.
Patria is expected to have a 16-seat bar, a lounge that will be able to fit an additional 15 people and a main dining room that will seat around 32 people when at capacity, Thayer and Fuhrman said.
Four to five people will be working in the kitchen at any given time. Two staff members will also work the bar, and around four people are expected to take care of the dining areas. The couple has already hired a bar manager, head server and service captain as well as a multiple bartenders and cooks, and they are looking to hire more staff.
While Thayer will take on the head chef title, Fuhrman, who has been heavily involved in the redesign of the restaurant, will “fill any role that is needed,” according to her.
“I want to keep a pulse on how staff are feeling and what the guest experience is,” she said.
They hope to attract a diverse crowd that includes families, young professionals and people in the service industry who may be getting off work and want a late-night bite to eat. Patria’s expected hours have yet to be set, but the couple intends to offer dinner service and late-night dining.
“It’s tough when you’re a cook and you get out of work at 12 o’clock and there’s nowhere to eat,” said Thayer.
Patria’s menu will have 10 to 12 dishes that are to-share items and seven to eight entrees. The couple, who had their first taste testing Tuesday night, said they plan to start with a smaller menu and add more items as they go on.
The restaurant will offer Tiki and “prohibition-era cocktails” and specialize in family-style roasts, pastas and vegetable dishes. The menu will include wide-ranging items, from a chicory salad with Castelvetrano olives and candied lemon to a sweet potato tortelli with smoked ham to a traditional American burger.
“Oh, we’ll definitely have a burger,” Thayer said. “You got to have a burger.”
The couple also aims to source their produce from local farms and venders, including Kitchen Gardens, “as much as possible,” said Thayer.
The Northampton chef, who said he has received a warm welcome from the Thornes community, has already made trips upstairs in the building to Cornucopia Natural Wellness Market to buy produce, according to him.
“Having Acme Surplus is really convenient too for random things,” he said. “Super cool stuff in there.”
Thayer and Fuhrman returned to the Pioneer Valley two years ago from San Francisco, where Thayer worked at the French restaurant Atelier Crenn with Dominique Crenn, a three-star chef. He later helped Crenn open a second restaurant, Petit Crenn.
The Hadley native knew he wanted to be a chef since he was a child, and later received an associate degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s in food service management from Johnson & Wales University.
Thayer’s resume also includes stints at the high-end steakhouse Mooo and the modern Asian cuisine restaurant Clio, both located in Boston, as well as Coco & the Cellar Bar in Easthampton, where Thayer and Fuhrman developed a close with the owners, Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor.
Abkin and Taylor have helped the Northampton couple significantly in their journey to opening their own restaurant, Thayer and Fuhrman said.
“They come from fine dining in San Francisco,” Fuhrman said. “I think they had a really big impact on us feeling confident we can open a restaurant in the area.”
Thayer also said his experience at Coco’s, as well as his work at restaurants Boston and San Francisco, helped form his current style.
“I definitely have recipes and techniques that I’ve picked up along the way that have become standard in my repertoire,” he said. “There’s going to be something that you can look at the menu and be like, ‘Huh, I can see where this influence came from.”
- Aaron Thayer, a former chef at Easthampton’s Coco & The Cellar Bar, to open new restaurant, Patria, at Thornes Marketplace in Northampton
- Report: ConVino Wine Bar in Northampton closing; owner cites panhandling, marijuana traffic