by Jay Kitterman, consultant, Culinary Institute, Lincoln Land Community College
Earlier this month when I asked Jordan Coffey the impact of the pandemic on their lives, he laughed and replied it has been “catastrophic.” Jordan and Aurora’s new restaurant Luminary Kitchen and Provisions located at 3121 Hedley is scheduled to open Nov. 30. They describe it as “a modern American restaurant with emphasis on being approachable, unique and delicious.”
A restaurant “planned for what is happening now, virus and all” is an additional way that Aurora and Jordan describe their new Luminary. They have planned for a significant amount of their sales to be curbside prepared meals or sales from their new retail options of meats, desserts and charcuterie. First, some background on Jordan and Aurora.
Jordan credits his “incredible” mentor Augie Mrozowski for being a wonderful role model and learning “how to work in a kitchen and how to work anywhere.” Jordan started at Augies Front Burner as a dishwasher when he was 17 in 2004. When he moved to the “hot side” of the kitchen, his “culinary light” went on and knew this would be his future. Augie recognized his talent and next promoted Jordan to become manager of the Café at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. This was a significant opportunity and is where Aurora and Jordan met. They moved to Chicago in 2008 where he worked at the French restaurant 160 Blue and Latin American-influenced restaurant Province. During this time, Aurora was attending and graduated from Robert Morris/Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School and worked at House of Blues and Rick Bayless ‘s restaurant XOCO.
The next major career move for them was returning to Springfield and starting American Harvest. Mentor Augie offered Jordan and Aurora the opportunity to operate the new restaurant. Jordan was now 23, and they were operating a $1.5 million business. They were 100% responsible for its operation, with direction from Augie that as long as the numbers were in line, it was their restaurant to run. “We made huge mistakes offset by major successes” is the way Jordan describes it. In 2016 they became financial partners and owners of American Harvest. Earlier this year, when the virus was just starting, there was a decision whether or not to renew their lease for another five years. American Harvest was a large restaurant, expensive to operate, with high utility and labor costs. The decision was made not to renew and planning for the new Luminary started. Not having the day-to-day responsibility of operating a restaurant provided them the opportunity to plan and design Luminary.
Two weeks ago, Jordan gave me a tour of the new restaurant while the new HVAC systems were being installed. As you enter Luminary, there is a counter where lots of activity will be taking place. Designed for today’s hectic life styles, it is here that during lunch you will place your order, find a table, and a server will bring you your order. Also, the counter is where you will be able to purchase prepared meals, charcuterie, fresh pastries and fresh cut meats from the house butcher shop. Behind the counter is a five seat bar where you can reserve and have Jordan, Aurora or one of their sous chefs prepare a customized dinner. This is similar to a chefs’ table in the kitchen concept popular in many high-end restaurants. I cannot wait to reserve and have Lincoln Land Community College culinary graduate Stephanie Warren prepare dinner for Carol and our guests. Of course, there will be a full service bar offering craft cocktails, local beers and fine wines prepared by American Harvest favorite bartender Niki Herr. Sitting at the bar will allow you to watch Aurora or Jordan expediting meals coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant will offer both high top and traditional table seating with space for around 80 guests. Guests will also be able to watch charcuterie preparation in the Garde Manger (cold foods) area of the restaurant. In spring they are planning to build a full patio.
When I asked Jordan the origin of Luminary, he deferred to Aurora. Similar to what the culinary program at LLCC requires, an assignment Aurora had while at Le Cordon Bleu was to create a plan for a restaurant. The name for her restaurant was Luminary.
During this planning time they have been successful in bringing their “chefs to your home” program, preparing private dinners and caterings. They plan to continue to do so on a limited basis when the new restaurant opens. For in home dining inquiries, email email@example.com and visit the events tab on their website luminarychefs.com.
Jordan is also a popular adjunct culinary instructor at LLCC, responsible for the Bistro Verde class. One way they are financing the new restaurant is offering memberships in their Luminary Club. There are three levels to invest. The $500 level includes $450 in dining credit which can be used for dining in, carry out or in their new provisions market. In addition, there is a Preview Night dinner for four people, seasonal virtual cooking classes, and a basket of ingredients from Luminary to make your own signature dishes right alongside the chefs but from the comfort of your home. The business level of membership offers your company logo placed on the Luminary website along with a link to the sponsoring company’s website, business lunch at your company, and many other benefits that you can find at luminarychefs.com.
I asked Jordan and Aurora what they would find in their refrigerator and pantry at home besides baby food for their two young sons. They listed lots of cheeses, yogurt, pasta and cereal. They both agreed that when home, meal preparation time is usually based on what can be prepared quickly and healthily.
Opening a anew restaurant at this time is definitely a challenge. They are fortunate to be able to capitalize on an existing, loyal fan base. They asked me to thank all that have supported them in the past and feel very thankful for their loyal restaurant team members. They send their “love and appreciation.”
As in the past, I encourage you to support our local restaurants. Restaurant gift certificates make wonderful gifts for the holidays and a perfect way to support our area chefs. Carol and I are still uncertain what our Thanksgiving will be like this crazy year and send you laughter, joy and good health. Be safe!