In this Q&A with a local restaurateur, we hear from chef Luke Venner of elm restaurant downtown about how the highly touted eatery is coping with restrictions following the COVID-19 emergency. New Canaanite: What has this past week been like for you?
Chef Luke Venner: Very challenging to say the least. We had to completely change our business model and systems within 24 hours and reassure a nervous staff that we were devising a solution to keep them employed. We also started keeping a body temperature log of everyone that enters the building and a shuttle service to keep our employees away from public transportation. How is you faring business-wise?
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has established “traumatic asphyxia, mechanical compression accident” as the cause of death for the 71-year-old woman found pinned and non-responsive March 27 beneath a motor vehicle in a South Bald Hill Road driveway. It isn’t clear what happened—an investigation from the New Canaan Police Department’s Accident Reconstruction Unit is ongoing, according to public information officer Lt. Jason Ferraro. ***
The New Canaan Building Department on April 17 issued an after-the-fact permit for a $50,000 renovation of two bathrooms at 246 Park St. Officials noted on the permit that the work “was one without obtaining the necessary permits, this means that all required inspections during construction were not performed.” The contractor on the job was the condominium’s owner, according to building records. ***
Chef Luke Venner of elm restaurant in New Canaan, has received an invitation by the prestigious James Beard Foundation to bring a taste of “Connecticut Spring” to the Historic Beard House on May 14th.
I am writing to you today as a 23 year resident and owner of a small business (elm restaurant) in New Canaan. This email letter is an appeal to ask for caution in how the Connecticut Department of Transportation decides to go about handling its budget gap. Cutting off-peak service to the New Canaan spur is not the answer! New Canaan is a vibrant, small town of 20,000-plus people. Many of our residents commute to New York City for work and depend on train service during peak and off peak times.
In a move sure to send seismic shock waves throughout the Fairfield County culinary landscape, it was announced today that Brian Lewis—former chef and owner of New Canaan’s elm restaurant—has bought the pioneering farm-to-table Westport establishment LeFarm from chef/owner Bill Taibe. Taibe—in a release sent out today—announced the sale stating that “when the opportunity presented itself to pass on LeFarm’s mantle to such an accomplished chef as Brian Lewis, someone who could seamlessly carry on the legacy that LeFarm has forged; it was a no-brainer.”
Under Lewis’ direction from its opening in March of 2012 until his departure in the fall of 2014, elm has been one of New Canaan’s most consistently popular restaurants, earning high praise from the New York Times, Esquire and Connecticut Magazine for its innovative and seasonal cuisine. (Elm remains operational under chef Luke Venner.)
At the same time, LeFarm—one of three Westport eateries created by the James Beard-nominated Taibe (the others being The Whelk and Kawa Ni)—was one of the most-celebrated restaurants in the area, famous for its evolving menu of farm-fresh ingredients and support of local purveyors since opening in 2009. The final night of service at the 36-seat LeFarm was Tuesday night. Lewis has not yet announced when the new establishment will open, or what the new name and concept will be.
New Canaanites have plenty of reasons to shop and dine locally, and those reasons go far beyond the fact that the village center has scores of independent businesspeople—retailers, restaurateurs, service providers—who work here and have had a tough go with the weather these past few weeks. Our owners-on-site specialize in their fields and offer a wide range of expertise. They support most every community event that locals associate with the town—fishing derby, Waveny summer concerts, Santa’s visit, little league, Holiday Stroll, ice cream social, Halloween Parade. It’s hard to find two important community events in a row in New Canaan that aren’t sponsored in some way by Walter Stewart’s, Karl Chevy or both. Because familiarity breeds conversation and rapport, we can come to know our local small business owners and workers better than we may at, say, out-of-town chains. The slideshow above is a testament to that strong connection—click through to learn more about some of those who make up the economic lifeblood of the business district.