Maverick chef Jeremy Sewall celebrates the sixth anniversary of his "baby" restaurant, Lineage, tonight with a reception featuring plates from friends like Jody Adams and Michael Schlow, and a book-signing with Shucked authoress Erin Byers Murray. (It's $65 all-inclusive; call 'em for reservations.) Sewall is a busy man: In addition to running his Brookline restaurant, he dashes between Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar. He paused for a few minutes to share his recipe for success, which basically involves a great staff and trying not to burn people.
You run three restaurants. How do you pull it off?
I don't even think about it. I'll be in trouble. Honestly, I'm blessed with wonderful staff. It might sound a little cliche but they are hardworking, skilled ladies and gentlemen who have a common vision and goal about how we expect the kitchens to run. And that's kind of how I do it; it's through them. I do make my presence known in all the kitchens as much as I can, but I work with great people. I'm fortunate.
Break down your schedule for us.
Probably three nights per week, I'm at Island Creek. I usually spend days popping into Eastern Standard, because it runs 24/7. I try to get in there for lunch and as they transition into dinner and to check in with those guys. Both restaurants are in the hotel [Commonwealth], and it makes it very convenient. I can be present in both places. And then I end the day at Lineage, which I have to drive by on my way home. I spend the end of service with them and check in with those guys and say hello to the staff and to the guests.
With Island Creek getting so much insane press, how does Lineage fit in?
We opened it six years ago, and it is still my own baby. It was the first time venturing out on my own. My partners in the other places really embrace it and understand how important it is to me. The health of all the restaurants are important to one other.
How's the restaurant changed over time?
When we started, it was pretty modest. I thought Coolidge Corner was a fantastic community and neighborhood, and we wanted to be a great little neighborhood restaurant. It blew up bigger than we thought it would and the expectations have risen as we've gotten better. But, at the core, it is a neighborhood restaurant and we will honor that. You can sit at the bar and have a pizza and a glass of wine and feel like you're having a great experience. Or, if your parents are coming, order a bottle of wine and be more adventurous.
What's been your biggest dining disaster since opening?
We have an amazing wood oven. In the beginning, I was doing this roasted shellfish dish out of the oven, with beautiful pans and lids. I would roast a shellfish with the lid on and send it to the dining room with the lid on. We had more than one guest burn their hand, and it was my second week that we were open! Everyone was good about it, though. No lawsuits. We figured it out quickly. It only took three or four guests to singe their hands.
And finally: Any more Island Creeks on the horizon?
I can barely handle what we have! I will never say never. The short answer we'd love to, but we're really protective of what we have and we take care of it as well as we can.