Business: A Starr Is Born?

He could be as hyped as Stephen Starr, but Steve Cook — who’s opened three great new restaurants in the past four years — is too busy to care about that

IT SEEMS TO come naturally to Cook: “If I had the money, we’ve got lots of ideas of things we want to do, and lots of people who I think can do it. I’d rather create the opportunity than create the opportunity for people to leave.” That’s why he and Solomonov asked Marigold sous-chef Erin O’Shea if she was up to running the restaurant after Solomonov left for Zahav — encouraging her to add her own twist, of course. Marigold, now in its third incarnation, with O’Shea as head chef, has a Southern-focused menu (think pork, peaches and grits) and was again lauded by LaBan. Ordinarily, when restaurants reinvent themselves, it’s a sign of desperation, but with Marigold and Cook, it’s a sign of new life.
For Cook, what he’s after boils down to something very simple: food that’s meant to be taken seriously, presented in an environment meant to keep everyone — customers and employees — at ease. Consider Zahav: It’s far from schlumpy or uncool, despite Zahav’s unexpected loyal clientele: senior suburban Jews who schlepp to the city to kvell over the familiar flavors of Solomonov’s Sephardic-leaning fare. One table sings happy birthday in Hebrew. Another is feasting on a kosher meal that Solomonov has specially prepared. These diners look small and out of place in the oversized booths, but couldn’t feel more at home. Eventually, as the night gets darker, glamorous Society Hill couples and die-hard foodies fill the space. It’s a brave new food world.