On creating something new
Elizabeth: Had you ever been to a restaurant like that before?
Josh: There weren’t that many, but I was super disappointed with the ones I went to. [Laughs] Not because of the food, they all had really good food, but why create the interface if you’re not going to utilize it? … It was such a missed opportunity for someone to have an experience to learn something new, and the cook can talk about something [they’re passionate about]. That’s what I tell [the team at Bastion], is that we have this connection with people just by them walking in the door. They’re excited to eat here, and we’re cooking that we should be excited about. We already got through that first barrier, and we’ve already started sharing something.
Elizabeth: It’s more of a human experience, to get to share the one-on-one conversation that you get to have. I got to have many [of those conversations] when I was eating there. It was natural. I didn’t feel like I was watching a caged animal. It was really positive, and it demystified the fancy food experience. You know you’re getting this special thing, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel bougie in a bad way. It’s interesting to see that you were able to see that fine dining could be interactive.
Josh: That’s another part of it, too: How can we make it more comfortable? I ate at all the [fine dining restaurants I’ve worked at], and like, I know everyone on the staff, so why do I feel so uncomfortable right now? [Laughs] Am I sitting the right way? You’re questioning everything. Whereas, the first course you get at Bastion is finger food. We want you to eat with your fingers and not worry about it.
Elizabeth: So the Catbird Seat was your first time designing a restaurant. Did you want Bastion to be more like a bar experience, more one-on-one?
Josh: With the Catbird Seat, you have this counter with the kitchen in the middle. And then the people, I think it’s seven, six, and seven, which is twenty people at the counter, and then all the cooks working in the middle. Which is cool, because all the attention shifted inward. But for the people on the opposing sides, you’re watching the cooks, but you’re also watching other people, which is kind of weird. And maybe that’s nice, maybe that’s a positive thing in some ways. [But at Bastion,] if two people were sitting at a counter, I wanted it to be the two of them and then all of us working here, and nobody else. So since it’s rounded, you innately shifted toward the person you’re with. You forget about all the other people.
Elizabeth: And there are tables, but they’re all against the wall.
Josh: And that’s a different experience.
Elizabeth: You wanted it to be two separate styles?
Josh: Yeah. Groups of two or three would be at the bar, three or four would be at the tables, and then bigger groups would be at the big table. It’s three different experiences. But when you’re sitting at a line at the counter and you’re trying to talk to someone four seats away from you, it makes the whole room louder. It affects everyone.