Rhody Classics: A Day in the Life of Beau Vestal

The renowned chef balances family and restaurant life at New Rivers.
Chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers. Photography by Angel Tucker.

It’s not easy to keep a restaurant open for ten years, never mind twenty-seven. New Rivers is one of those places that endure while always staying relevant. It had big shoes to fill when it took over the space from Al Forno in 1990 under owners Bruce and Pat Tillinghast, who hired chef Beau Vestal in 2000. By 2003, Vestal ran the kitchen as executive chef, and by 2012, he took over ownership with his wife, Elizabeth, whom he met after hiring her in 2009. The couple married and now has three children, including a two-and-a-half-year-old girl and twin eight-month-old boys.

Busier than ever, Beau and Elizabeth balance the worlds of family and career through teamwork, both as a couple and with help from restaurant staff. “When you have kids, it adds an entirely new wrinkle to an already challenging existence with a restaurant,” says Vestal. “It forces you to surround yourself with good people who work for you.”

It is those good people — the chefs, bartenders, servers and host — who help cultivate restaurant regulars, which Vestal calls “maintaining a lost art.” “Folks feel a kinship to the restaurant because they get to know the staff and they can see the restaurant evolve,” he says.

The bar has become a communal table with guests routinely dining out and bonding with other customers. “It has a different vibe from sitting at a table where you’re interacting one-on-one with the bartender who is knowledgeable in food and drink,” says Vestal. “Guests at the bar will often share food, and they meet people who become new friends.” 7 Steeple St., Providence, 751-0350, newriversrestaurant.com

Here’s a day in the life of chef  Beau Vestal on what it takes to run the restaurant:

8 a.m.:  I am up every day.
8:30 a.m.: I drive my daughter to school in Barrington. Then I get a cup of coffee and loop back home to check in with Elizabeth and the two boys.
10:30 a.m.: Typically, I go to Four Town Farm every day to shop for daily needs. I load up a chef cart with items I need and talk to the owner, Jean, and farm managers, Brad and Chris, about what’s available and what’s coming in. They’ve become like a part of our family.
11:15 a.m.–2 p.m.: I arrive at the restaurant and meet with our sous chef, Anthony Glieco. I check voicemails and return phone calls. Then I go to the kitchen, and depending on where I am working that night, I start prepping. We rotate stations and I could be on saute one night, and grill another night. I’ll fabricate meat, fish, make charcuterie, get stocks going, anything that needs to happen. I also check invoices and receive deliveries from farmers, fish people and liquor distributors. I prep until 2 p.m. Sometimes, I am able to take a break and shoot back home for an hour to spend some time with the kids and Elizabeth.
1–2 p.m.: Line cooks arrive and we’ll go over what’s happening for the rest of the day. At that point, I’ll check in with our front of the house manager. We’ll reprint the menus if adjustments need to be made. We’ll talk about upcoming events, and then I’ll go back to the kitchen and keep prepping.
3:50 p.m.: Front of house staff arrives.
4 p.m.: We cook and serve family meal for staff to eat. It could be a beautiful pasta and a salad, or there could be tacos, pastrami sandwiches or roasted chicken with vegetables.
4:20 p.m.: I have a pre-meal meeting with front of house staff at the bar. We go over specials and new menu items, talk about ingredients and allergies, and how to phrase certain dishes to guests. We’ll talk about any VIPs who are coming in, industry people or regular customers. Our manager will give a rundown of new wines or cocktails on the menu.
4:45 p.m.: I’ll go back to the kitchen and make sure that everyone is ready for service.
5–10:30 p.m.: We open, and I’ll cook until 10:30 p.m. and then we clean our own stations.
10:45 p.m.: Before the end of the night, I will have a meeting with Anthony and we’ll go over orders for the next day, and talk about anything that was really successful or not successful.
11:30 p.m.: I head home and catch up with Elizabeth. She is usually awake, and we’ll talk about our day (she works at the restaurant on Monday nights
and I stay home with the kids). I get something to eat, like a turkey sandwich or chips and salsa. After work eats vary.
1 a.m.: I try to be in bed at 1 or 1:30 a.m.

That’s a day if nothing goes wrong, but the POS system or credit card machine could go down, the water heater might break or the phone lines disconnect, and most times, you have to scramble around. That’s life working at a restaurant.

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