Hadley native, Coco chef Aaron Thayer opening new restaurant

  • Aaron Thayer is preparing to open a new restaurant, Hunt & Gather, later this year on Union Street in downtown Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 2/18/2019 12:07:44 AM

EASTHAMPTON – Aaron Thayer has a lot on his plate for 2019. 

Between preparing for his wedding in October and opening a new restaurant at 77-79 Union Street, called Hunt & Gather, 2019 will be a year of major milestones for Thayer and his fiancee, Abby Fuhrman. 

“I am extremely excited with what’s happening in Easthampton with food,” Thayer, 31, of Northampton, said on Thursday. Currently, Thayer is cooking part-time at Coco and the Cellar Bar on Main Street after nearly a year-and-a-half of cooking full time for the two restaurants. 

Hunt & Gather is tentatively slated to open around the end of the year, is the culmination of a 14-year culinary journey that has brought Thayer to Boston and San Francisco as a chef for various distinguished and award-winning restaurants. 

A Hadley native who graduated from Johnson & Wales in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in food service management, Thayer went on to work for three years at a steakhouse on Beacon Hill called Mooo. 

Then, Thayer worked for nearly two years at Clio (now known as Uni) under famed chef Ken Oringer, also in Boston. 

“It was a crazy busy restaurant, a lot was demanded of you and I learned a lot in a short period of time,” Thayer said. “It was my first introduction in the big chef world and I really cut my teeth there.” 

In 2014, Thayer moved to San Francisco with Fuhrman to work at a now three-star Michelin Guide restaurant, Atelier Crenn. After a year, the chef-owner, Dominique Crenn — the first female head chef of a U.S. restaurant to receive three Michelin stars —  asked Thayer to help her open a second restaurant, called Petit Crenn. 

“That was quite an experience, opening up a restaurant for the first time being the chef de cuisine,” Thayer said. “The pinnacle of my experience in San Francisco was being able to go to the farmer’s market every morning and find what the menu was going to be that day.” 

Thayer plans on implementing a similar approach when it comes to building Hunt & Gather’s menu.

While he says that there are more pressing tasks at hand — such as getting all the necessary permits and getting the building up to code, constructing the kitchen and picking out a wedding suit — he will base the menu off what’s fresh at the farmer’s market. 

“I work backward a lot of times,” Thayer said. “I’ll find what’s at the peak of its season and try to craft and create a dish around that.” 

Before leaving San Francisco in 2017, Thayer moved on to another three-star restaurant, Quince, for ten months after Petite Crenn. 

“I was feeling a bit burnt out on San Francisco and my fiancee was going to grad school back here, so we decided to come home,” Thayer said. 

Working at Coco and the Cellar Bar for the past year-and-a-half has been “just incredible, incredible,” Thayer said, adding that co-owners and chefs Roger Taylor and Unmi Abkin (also married), were “amazing” in helping him get accustomed to life in the Valley after moving back from the West. 

As for his restaurant, Thayer envisions a staff of 20, with the main dining room seating 45 people, an 8-seat bar and a four-seat tasting counter that will have a front-row view into an open kitchen. 

The tasting counter will “be a little more involved experience with wine pairings and multi-courses with smaller bites and a little more adventurous ingredients,” Thayer said. 

“In San Francisco, it’s so inundated with restaurants that it can feel very impersonal at times,” Thayer said. “Easthampton is the antithesis of that and it’s a community in its pure definition.” 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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