One of Dallas' most original and dynamic restaurant ideas, Kitchen LTO, will soon close up shop, then reopen with a new name, a new concept and a new chef-partner.
Casie Caldwell, who debuted Kitchen LTO in Trinity Groves in 2013 with Norman Grimm as its first chef, seemed to have a hit with her "permanent pop-up." Every six months the chef changed, voted on by a panel of judges and the public. The idea was great fun and seemed to encourage creativity and inventiveness. Among the chefs to do stints were Anastacia Quinones, Blythe Beck and Nick Amoriello. But the partnership with Trinity Groves did not last, and Caldwell closed the restaurant last summer.
Then in October, Caldwell resurrected LTO in Deep Ellum, with Josh Harmon as its chef.
The arrangement worked well for both Caldwell and Harmon. It worked so well, in fact, that Harmon will become permanent chef — as well as Caldwell's co-owner — on May 4. The partners will drop the pop-up aspect and change the name to Junction Craft Kitchen.
The name of the restaurant refers to the junction of Southern and Asian cooking that drives his menu, says the 28-year-old chef, a Tennessee native who went to New York to learn Asian cooking. His sous chef, Aaron Skoultchi, whom Harmon describes as half-Japanese, moved to Tennessee to learn to cook Southern. "He grew up Asian and wanted to cook Southern; I grew up Southern and wanted to learn to cook Asian." He plans to change the menu every three months, with a new one going in on May 4. On tap to make desserts, including a "pie of the day," is his mother.
So, why did Caldwell put her original idea to bed? "I never intended or dreamed that Kitchen LTO would be changing in this fashion," she says. "However, in our second week of business I could just tell that Josh was born for that location. His style fits Deep Ellum so well that it just felt like it was going to be his home. Things were going really well and the feedback was amazing; the response to his style of cooking really felt right. I felt he's worth investing in for the long term."
Though she has "hit the pause button" to focus on getting Harmon up and going, Caldwell doesn't rule out the idea of resurrecting Kitchen LTO at some point.
"LTO," she says, "could pop up anywhere."