What do Ian Moroney of Pumpkin, Andrew Deery of Majolica, Ralph Fernandez of Autograph and Peter Gilmore of Gilmore’s all have in common? His name is Alex Hardy, and he’s the executive chef of a new restaurant called At the Table. On November 16th, he and his wife Tara Buzan opened this 20-seat restaurant in the heart of Wayne, PA.
“We wanted to bring really, really fine dining to the area,” said Alex.
Before Alex was an executive chef, before he worked with some of the best chefs in the country, before he attended Johnson and Wales University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Arts, he worked as a dishwasher. “In going through the process of my career it’s very important to know–to some degree–all the elements of a restaurant,” he said. “You have to know how things go together–the flavors, the balance, the presentation.”
Most execs leave halfway through dinner service, but Alex arrives at 8 a.m. and stays until closing. He helps to clean, he works the line, he touches every single plate as it goes out–no two plates are exactly the same. Though they might display the same ingredients, says Alex, “there’s always something different and that makes the customer say ‘wow, you did this for me.’”
At the Table measures the exact distance between the fork and knife at each table setting, with a ruler. Despite this attention to detail, however, Alex denies being a perfectionist. “There’s no idea of perfection because you’re always learning something. You’re always trying something completely different.” Instead, Alex strives to create a dining experience that is “unmatched” and unique.”
And Alex is quick to remind anyone who praises his work of the people who contributed to his success. “Ian showed me how to be a little more humble in what we do,” said Alex. “Andrew showed me the visual presentation, the love of the food–lemon should be treated the same way as wagyu beef is treated because everything has a little bit of an energy and it’s all from earth.” Ralph gave him the confidence to believe that he, too, could one day be an amazing chef.
But Alex derives inspiration from more unsung heroes, too. He is in awe of his line cooks. When he worked as a dishwasher, he would watch them work during service. “Pardon my French,” he said, “but I thought they were badass.”
“I do not allow in my kitchen the concept of ‘I can’t do this,’” said Alex. “There’s a lot of people who if you look on instagram or something like that you’ll see people who put up this amazing food and then they’ll hear the comments like “you can’t do that in a kitchen, you can’t do that during service.
“Well, why not?” he asks. “Why can’t you?”