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Real food story: Nookie Postal and launching Commonwealth

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Today’s Community Table at Babson welcomed Nookie Postal to chat about the restaurant business. Longtime Boston chef, Nookie was Ana Sortun’s opening sous-chef for now wildly famous Oleana. He’s cooked at Chez Henri, Icarus, Casablanca, been Executive Chef for the Red Sox, and starred in Bravo’s “Around the World in 80 Plates”. Most recently, Nookie has opened his own shop: a “farm-to-table restaurant-market hybrid” called Commonwealth in Kendall Square.

When asked what led him into food, Nookie matter-of-factly replied: “I didn’t ever want to wear a suit."

Indeed, the chef met us decked out in his self-titled sweats-edo, inclusive of a “Cambridge” hoodie.

For the next 90 minutes, Nookie gave the Table a crash course in all things restaurant: hiring the right team; firing the wrong team; leases; TI financing, leveraging social media to get debt financing, someone asking for a briefcase full of cash, missing checks, second-hand equipment, health inspectors, codes and all the other zany elements to figuring out how to turn 6,500 square feet of blank-slate real estate into Commonwealth.

“This was a three-year process, and we’re still figuring it out. I am learning every day.”

In a move that might be typical Nookie but is certainly atypical of the restaurant world, he launched an Eater Boston weekly series called “On the House” detailing in full glory the trials, tribulations, delirium and sweat equity of opening a restaurant.

“I just really wanted to be honest about what it takes. Not what some How-To book will tell you, glossing everything over – but how crazy it can be.”

Nookie is smart, experienced, hilarious, approachable (the sweat-edo helps) and almost startlingly candid, which got this Examiner thinking: could candor be a brand? Across a food world increasingly demanding transparency, Nookie’s frankness feels fresh.

Though refreshingly direct, there is nothing reckless about Nookie. As the best entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s about the team. Nookie knew he needed help and his network and reputation got him access to the best. Michael Staub, whom Nookie affectionately calls The Staubinator, is revered among Greater Boston restaurateurs for getting new shops off the ground. “I talk to him every day. I could never have done this without him.”

Commonwealth sources from many Massachusetts based farms and food businesses – including Island Creek Oysters, Maple Line Farms, and George Howell Coffee. This Examiner can’t wait to see and taste it all on Friday.

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