Chives: A Savory Second Act in Lakeville
Chef/owner David Wilburn with his wife, Sally
When you hear that a former New York investment banker has opened a restaurant, you don’t expect to find him behind the stove. But David Wilburn, who spent twenty years at PaineWebber, is in the kitchen six nights (and days) a week at Chives, his four-month-old restaurant in Lakeville, CT. Though he’s been a serious gourmand and weekend chef for 25 years, Wilburn is still a businessman, and he wasn’t about to let an amateur run his restaurant. So he enrolled in the 14-month program at the Center for Culinary Arts in Shelton, CT, before opening Chives. “Cooking school was the most fun I’d ever had as an adult,” he says. Wilburn used his teachers as his advisory council for the restaurant, asking their advice about kitchen design and operations. He even hired a classmate half his age to be his executive chef. Wilburn and his wife, Sally, who runs the front of the house, envision Chives as a white tablecloth restaurant with serious food but no pretensions. “We expect people to come in jeans,” says Sally, who worked as a paralegal in a white-shoe law firm when they lived in the city and took charge of the restaurant’s decor. “We decorated it as if it were our living room,” she says, noting that she splurged on Brunschwig & Fils curtains and Ralph Lauren paint. “We tried dozens of yellows and it was the best.”
David’s passion for cooking is reflected in the complex flavors he brings together in dishes such as prawns with grilled fennel salad and green-and-yellow zucchini “tartar” ($11); seared blackfin tuna and soba noodle salad that comes with both candied and pickled ginger($12); crispy-skin organic salmon with a saffron cream sauce ($24); spring-pea ravioli with mascarpone, pine nuts and fried spinach leaves ($18). “I spent two weeks coming up with that dish,” he says. To encourage diners to order appetizers, the Wilburns include a green salad with every entrée.
Like all eco-conscious, community-minded foodies, the Wilburns try to buy as much as possible from local sources. “We’re so happy Sky Farm in Millerton told us they will have lettuce in three weeks,” says Sally. “We get our free-range chicken from Herondale Farm in Ancramdale and we buy grass fed beef from Whippoorwill Farm in Salisbury.
Besides baking all of the restaurant’s bread and desserts (like the profiteroles, left), David also makes his own pasta and ice cream. “On Saturdays, I bake the English muffins for our Sunday brunch eggs Benedcit—nobody does that,” he boasts. Sally shoots him a forgiving look and says wryly: “And we may find out why.”
As restaurateurs in a town where they have lived for more than a decade and where their two younger children attend the regional public high school, the Wilburns expect that there is, at most, only two or three degrees of separation between them and their customers. Says David: “We feel like we are hosting a dinner party in our home every night.”
2 Ethan Allen Street, Lakeville, CT
Dinner: Thursday - Tuesday 5:30 - 9:00; café until 10; bar until 11:00
Brunch: Sunday 11:30 - 3:00