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Joe Papach and Shaina Robbins Papach — who each have 20 years of industry experience and are alums of Michelin-starred establishments — are starting a restaurant together in Madison, set to open in spring 2020.
Joe was a sous-chef at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville, California, and he managed the kitchens of Cotogna and the three-Michelin-starred Quince, which are both Italian restaurants in San Francisco. Shaina was a cook at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California, and managed the programs and budgets of programming of The Edible Schoolyard Project as well as the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.
Between them, they've cooked and worked in the food and drink business from coast to coast — they met while working at Gramercy Tavern in New York — but they've chosen Madison, Shaina's hometown, as a place to settle down.
"We felt like it would really be a nice place to both raise kids and start a business together," Shaina says. She and Joe, who is now a little closer to his hometown of Whiting, Indiana, have two young sons. Joe also has an older son from a previous marriage.
It took a while to find the right location in Madison for a restaurant, but the Papachs fell in love with the historic 5,000-square-foot space that used to be the baggage handler's building in Madison's former train station complex on West Washington Avenue. Their forthcoming restaurant, The Harvey House, gets its name from Fred Harvey, a man who started a chain of restaurants in the 1800s along train lines before train dining cars became commonplace. "They were called the Harvey Houses," Shaina says. Shaina's grandfather's name is also Harvey, so it felt meant to be.
"We're really excited about the history of the building," she says. "It has beautiful bones."
The Harvey House will pay homage to the traditional Midwestern supper club but with a refined and creative take on familiar dishes that incorporate local ingredients. Think clams casino, chicken cordon bleu and desserts like banana pudding and chocolate cake (that will be playfully presented on a rolling dessert cart). Shaina will run the business; Joe will be the executive chef. "But every decision is made together," Joe says.
Joe's background in classic French technique will surely come through. "[He does] very exact techniques, but it's not super fussy food," Shaina says. "There's a lot of herbs and acids and bold flavors that complement the classic technique."
The Papachs, who moved to Madison in 2018, have enjoyed going to local farmers' markets and have started making connections with local farmers and other chefs. Getting used to Wisconsin's growing season has been an exciting challenge, they say.
The restaurant, still under construction, will include a dining space in the baggage building, and there will be a glassed-in space on the train platform for drinks and snacks. They hope to eventually open a private space for about 45 guests in one of the train cars.
"We want to raise our kids in the restaurant," Shaina says. "It'll be a family business. We're pretty excited about it."
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