Chef Brad Rowell got his start in the restaurant industry as a teenager, working as a server and bar-back at Dock of the Bay and Coyote Café, near where he grew up in Hamburg. It wasn’t until he moved to Boulder, Colorado, at 21 that the idea of a culinary career came to him — but after that, he never looked back.
Rowell’s vast and varied international experience has found him shucking oysters in Colorado, making sausage in Manhattan, working at two renowned restaurants in London, dining throughout Europe, and cooking alongside elite chefs like Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg and April Bloomfield of New York’s Spotted Pig. Before returning to Western New York in 2011, Rowell was chef de cuisine at Colt & Gray, a restaurant he helped open in Denver, and his food was praised in The New York Times.
It’s probably no surprise, then, that his new restaurant, the Grange Community Kitchen, is the most-anticipated opening of the spring. Co-owned by Rowell and his wife, Caryn, the village bistro will be located at 22 Main St. in Hamburg, the former home of Tina’s Italian Kitchen.
“We really want to create that feeling of a community hub,” Rowell said. “People can pop in during the morning and grab a breakfast sandwich and some coffee. Then, whether they’re moms at home with their kids or [employees at] local businesses, they can pop over for lunch and know they’re going to get fresh, seasonal, healthy food.”
Rowell drew inspiration from his time as chef at Elm Street Bakery, a thriving eatery in the core of East Aurora. For the Grange menu, he envisions a simple yet sophisticated line-up that highlights high-quality meat and local produce.
“That’s how I’ve been cooking for the last 10 years, and I want to focus on it more with the Grange — using farmers that we know are doing things the right way, and taking those ingredients they’re growing and respecting them and letting them shine,” Rowell said.
Caryn has been overseeing the restaurant’s design, hoping to create a space that feels open, light and airy. On the outside, the couple is restoring the building’s 1892 façade and honoring the building’s history as the Hamburg Grange Building with their name.
“In the early 1900s, the farming community paid to be a part of this [Grange] organization to come to social events,” Rowell explained. “They’d have dances on the third floor and would hold meetings on the first floor. For us, that fit in with our entire concept.”
And, it seems that concept has already resonated with Western New York chefs, foodies and diners alike — even before the Grange Community Kitchen serves its first meal.
“Brad is such a natural cook,” said James Roberts, owner and chef at Toutant and Rowell’s mentor during their time together at Park Country Club in Williamsville. “His flavors, the way he treats ingredients and techniques, and his genuine interest in striving to always be the best at what he does are qualities that have and will continue to make him a great chef.”