”The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.” Thus spoke James Beard.
Restaurateur Mark Maguire admits he had a fear of soufflés. When amateur gourmet Hedda Gioia Dowd -- founder of the French linen and tableware dealer Antique Harvest -- approached Maguire about doing a soufflé restaurant that served both dessert and savory egg-beaten air puffs, Maguire thought it was nuts. “That doesn’t sound like a very good idea at all,” he insisted. “I’d never even heard of a savory soufflé.” But Dowd kept after him, relentlessly. “It’s very difficult to say ‘no’ to her,” he tells Unfair Park.
So Maguire drafted a business plan, helped Dowd shop for investors and became a partner himself, along with Maguire’s chef Cherif Brahmi, in rise n°1, a 92-seat “salon de soufflé” and wine bar in what was the Lover’s Egg Roll in Inwood Village for the past 15 years. It's scheduled to open next month, but will likely make its bow in January.
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What conquered Maguire’s soufflé phobias? There’s no competition.
Virtually the only exclusively soufflé restaurant in the U.S. is Café Jacqueline in San Francisco. Then there’s the neighborhood. rise n°1’s demographic is fifty-something women with full-figured bank accounts, something this Park Cites enclave is flush with. Plus, Bijoux is in the neighborhood to rub off a little Franco-Ameriphilia fairy dust. For efficiency, Maguire has acquired some high-tech ovens that can spit out soufflés in as little as 15 minutes instead of the usual 45.
Rise will have some 70 to 80 wines, most of them French, plus a dozen or so wine flights. And microbrewed beers.
Meanwhile, Maguire says he has yet to find someone to take over the Maguire’s Uptown Restaurant & Bar space on Cedar Springs he shut down earlier this year -- a lease for which he’s still on the hook. It might be good if he shed that soon. Maguire has plans to open four more rise n°1 soufflé salons by 2009. --Mark Stuertz