Executive chef at Centro lands partnership at the new Django in Des Moines
Our obsession with decadent food is apparently nothing new.
When Django's highly anticipated new location opens later this year at 1420 Locust St., many familiar elements will greet diners — the red banquettes, brass decor and the classic U-shaped bar.
Of the new changes to look forward to, though, there's one that stands out from the rest.
Centro's longtime executive chef Derek Eidson will join the leadership team as a full partner in the new restaurant. This is the first time a chef has been offered an ownership in one of the Orchestrate brands.
"It's a great opportunity and it's humbling," Eidson, 36, said. "I think about what has been offered to me and just how generous these guys are and I'm really excited. I just want to get down to Django and make it a great place where people like to go and hang out. Being a partner puts me in a better position for future things."
Django owners George Formaro, Paul Rottenberg and Jeff Hunter knew that bringing in a chef partner would help continue the creative leadership and legacy of the brand.
"I started to look at the 10-year plan of Django and how old I am, and thought it's time to start thinking of the legacy and the future of the restaurants, and how do we get longevity?" Formaro said. "It takes a lot to run these restaurants and now I can step back a little more and help these guys a little more."
The timing was just right as Eidson, a Des Moines native, came onto the Centro team in 2007 after graduating from Kirkwood in 2000 and working at Sage for three years and then Lucca. He took the reins in the Centro kitchen seven years ago.
Django's new space will include a mezzanine for private parties and a new patio that overlooks Pappajohn Sculpture Park bringing the total seating capacity to about 140. A historic Wallace fountain imported from Europe will be the centerpiece, purchased by partner Jeff Hunter.
Formaro and Eidson estimate that about 30 percent of the Django staff will make a return to the new space. That includes popular bartender C.J. Ryherd, who will be working with Eidson to continue the creative flair behind the cocktail program. A collaborative beer with Barn Town Brewing also is in the works for the opening beverage menu.
Eidson plans to redesign the menu with new and old favorites. The house favorite — moules-frites (mussels with crispy fries) — and poutine will be making a comeback along with revved-up raw bar selections.
Classic French favorites like homemade pâtés, terrines and sausages will be something to look forward to, as well as some lighter and modernized seasonal components from local farms.
And look for brunch to be offered on both Saturdays and Sundays with fun riffs on biscuits and gravy using croissants, and Formaro-inspired Montréal-style bagels (think smaller, denser and sweeter) from South Union Bakery. The dessert menu will include old favorites like pot de crème, crème brûlée and apple tart Tatin, but look for locally-made ice creams to make their way to the menu.
Eidson's dedicated new role with Django and Orchestrate was a logical — and easy — decision for the Orchestrate team. "What it allows us to do is provides an opportunity for (Eidson) to move to the next level in his career and that's important to George and me at this point in our lives," Rottenberg said.
Django is projected to reopen in its new location by the last week of July.