Tom Colicchio, famed chef, restaurateur, and “Top Chef” judge, announced Wednesday that he would be changing the name of his newest restaurant in New York City.
Colicchio opened what was then called Fowler & Wells in the newly renovated Beekman hotel and condo building last October. According to The New York Times, it was named for a publishing company and scientific institute that once operated on the site.
Lorenzo and Orson Fowler and Samuel Wells, who started the institute, were practitioners of phrenology, a school of thought that said you could understand aspects of a person’s personality and mental strength by examining the shape of their skull. Phrenology was often used to justify slavery and racial discrimination in the 19th century.
Shortly after the restaurant’s opening, a review by Pete Wells pointed out the name’s racial implications.
“This is obviously not a side of phrenology that Mr. Colicchio, who is outspoken about his progressive politics, embraces,” Wells wrote.
That, plus other suggestions from staff, caused Colicchio to rethink the name. A section of Fowler & Wells’ cocktail menu bore a diagram of the brain and had been called the “Phrenological Cabinet.”
“I don’t think it was a bad idea to start with because we didn’t have any of the information we have now,” Colicchio said to the NYT. “I have a fairly liberal persona and never in a million years would consider myself a racist, so it never crossed my mind.”
Colicchio and his restaurant group, Crafted Hospitality, announced they would be changing the restaurant’s name to Temple Court, a reference to The Beekman’s original name. New logos, menus, and signs have been put in place.
Colicchio commented on the change in a press release:
“In the mid-1800s, the building where The Beekman in New York City now stands housed the offices of Fowler & Wells, a pair of publishers and phrenologists. Using their names for my newest restaurant was a way to link us to the location’s past. After we opened, we dove more deeply into the works of Fowler & Wells and realised our research had been incomplete. We discovered facts about their beliefs that go against everything we stand for, both personally and as a company. With this information in hand, we decided to change the name of our restaurant to Temple Court, the original name of The Beekman’s historic building. Other than the name, the restaurant remains as it was originally conceived.”
Temple Court serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At dinner, guests can order a la carte or enjoy a five-course, $US99-per-person tasting menu, which includes dishes like a lobster thermidor with chanterelle mushrooms and tarragon.
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