Coming Soon: Grondin, a French-Latin Kitchen

From left to right: Andrew Pressler, Jenny Grondin and David Segarra

Woe to the chef tasked with recreating someone else's childhood dishes. Andrew Pressler, the chef of a soon-to-open restaurant, has that challenge—times two. He's attempting to merge two family histories—one French and the other Ecuadorian—onto one plate.

This is Grondin, the highly personal project of Jenny Grondin and David Segarra, who for the last seven years, have been opening restaurants for other people. They've helped open four Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue restaurants—the uber-popular, Malaysian-inspired concepts based in New York. After their last opening, in St. John, USVI (of all places), they decided it was time for their own thing. For their chef, they tapped Andrew, who was the opening chef de cuisine for the first Fatty 'Cue.

"Every step in the taste-testing process," says Andrew, "every time I bring something to Dave, I can tell he's thinking, 'Dude, that's not how my mom made it.'"

But while Jenny and Dave say Grondin is a showcase of the comfort food they grew up with, both of them are restaurant-savvy enough to know that just because it doesn't taste like mom's cooking doesn't mean it's not good, and just because it does taste like mom's cooking, doesn't mean it's good.

"If I wanted [mom's cooking], I would've found an Ecuadorean woman for the kitchen, not Andrew," David says. "We want to reinvent this."

And so, Grondin—the name an homage to Jenny's father, a French chef who passed away when she was young—will be where classic French meets South America.

The three have been working on the restaurant space on Hotel St., a small 45-seater smack in the middle of Chinatown, for almost a year now. They picked it for its location—among the new, hip restaurants such as Lucky Belly, Downbeat Diner and The Pig and the Lady—and for the space's original details such as the brick wall, iron supports, tall ceilings and louvered windows. Never mind that it was just an empty shell. They had to install the plumbing, electrical, the kitchen, everything. But Honolulu entrepreneurs take note: David says the process, from permits to liquor licenses, has been a breeze compared to New York City red tape.

"Everyone's been so accommodating," David says. "Even the post office! When you deal with people who genuinely want you to do well, that's nice."

They're planning on opening Grondin by early March, starting with dinner and a full bar, and lunch service soon after. Expect prices to be mid-range, for share-style plates such as ceviche and Latin-spiced charcuterie to larger plates like perhaps a duck confit mole (the menu is still tentative right now).

Grondin, 62 N. Hotel Street