Chef Rabar leaves corporate world for his own Rumford kitchen

Chef Rabar leaves corporate world for his own Rumford kitchen

Life promises to get a little tastier in Rumford this summer.

July is the target date for chef Nick Rabar to open his restaurant-to-be-named-later at Rumford Center with All-American cuisine featured.

Judd Brown Designs will create the look of the restaurant and bar in Building No. 3 on Newman Avenue in the one-time factory complex occupied by Rumford Chemical Works. The buildings, closed in 1968, have been recently redeveloped as loft and business space. Rabar’s place will open next to Seven Stars Bakery, which moved in last May.

Rabar, 31, is the former corporate executive chef of the Chow Fun Food Group, with restaurants including 10 Prime Steak and Sushi, Cafe Noir, Rick’s Roadhouse and Luxe Burger Bar. For nearly a decade, he worked closely with John Elkhay, the self-proclaimed “Maestro” of the successful and upscale local chain.

"It was a phenomenal experience working with John Elkhay,” Rabar said in an interview recounting how much he learned from the restaurateur and chef. “But it was time for the bird to leave the nest," he said.

Motivated by affection for his new hometown, Rabar said his number one desire is to offer a gathering place where locals can come in for a martini and dinner. Since he moved to Rumford last year, he has enjoyed the trappings of small-town life that remind him of his childhood in Pleasant Valley, N.Y. Those feelings make him want be an active part of his new community. He wants to use his talents to offer affordable food and drink, he said.

He said Rumford is underserved by fine dining establishments. Chelo’s and Bertucci’s are probably the largest restaurants there now.

There will be 75 seats in the dining room, including a chef’s table, and 18 stools at the bar. He will open for dinner only, every night of the week.

The menu will include a trio of burgers and pizza but most of the entrees will be composed to reflect a traditional American list of ingredients, Rabar said. He wants to avoid some of the melting pot conventions and ethnic ingredients that take the focus off the local food. Everything will be priced less than $20.

Rabar is excited to get back into the kitchen at the new restaurant after his past few years of corporate work.

"As I do some of the test dishes at home, I feel a rush,” he said. “My best years have been in the kitchen."

Rabar’s partner in the venture is Tracy Rush, also formerly of the Chow Fun Food Group, who will run what is commonly called “the front of the house” managing the dining room and the business side outside of the kitchen. Her experience includes positions at Hemenway’s, Capital Grille and Aramark and she owned her own cafe, Seasons Change, in Pawtuxet Village, for five years. Rabar said he is also financed by silent partners who prefer to go unnamed.

Rabar’s ambitions include his restaurant being a destination for people in Providence and all of Rhode Island. But close to home, the restaurant will offer “loft service” similar to room service to the hundreds of residences in the complex. He is already forging a relationship with Seven Stars Bakery owners Lynn and Jim Williams. He will use their pizza dough and bread.

While the restaurant is being built out, cable TV watchers can see the chef on his new show, "Nick Rabar Chef 2 Go," which premieres in February on Cox Channel 3.

The show follows Rabar on culinary expeditions throughout Rhode Island and Southern New England to find hidden dining treasures. Each trip ends in Rabar’s kitchen with him preparing a meal incorporating the ingredients that he has discovered.

A 1998 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Rabar has been named “Chef of the Year” by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and among the “Best and Brightest Young American Chefs” by Spirit Magazine.

- By Gail Ciampa, Journal Food Editor at Providence Journal -

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