Chef Seth Smith’s anecdotes contain as much flavor as his dishes.
“I was driving this 1969 Volkswagen bus and met this girl who loved the Grateful Dead driving a 1969 Volkswagen bus,” Smith said of his wife, Melissa Grace. “The rest is history.”
Since attending Jerry Garcia’s last tour in 1995, these two Deadheads have squeezed in plenty of living. The pair owned a Tulsa catering company called Taste for 13 years before Smith took a job as executive chef at Philbrook.
Smith trained at the culinary school Le Cordon Bleu London, and the pair also have previously resided in Colorado, the Oregon coast, central Florida, Kennebunkport, Maine, and New York City. Their latest venture, Radish, is part of the Mother Road Market, whose grand opening is Friday.
“We wanted something that we could start with small and grow into something more but do it on a manageable level,” Smith said. “We thought ‘Let’s do something really interactive and fun that’s face-to-face with the public, with our guests.’ There’s nothing that you can’t see in this kitchen.’”
A nonprofit development of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, Mother Road Market will feature 320-square-foot shop models that allow entrepreneurs to test their latest concepts. A longtime relationship with foundation co-founder Kathy Taylor and her family enhanced their desire to be under the nonprofit’s umbrella, Smith said.
“The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, hands down, that was our first attraction,” he said. “We have a really strong connection personally with them. When it came to the point of Mother Road Market … we just knew the energy and the lifeblood behind these projects had the most stability and staying power of anything else that was an opportunity for us.”
Grace said, “Having to do fine dining and little bites of food for so long and in all the nicest homes of Tulsa, we just wanted big platters of food and a happy atmosphere.”
Radish is a blend of Mediterranean and Americana, a concept the two call “Midwesterranean.” They will serve chicken from a rotisserie, salads and wraps, along with hummus, roasted potatoes, tabouli, baba ganoush and other sides.
“We do things very grassroots and organically,” Smith said. “We try not to overthink. We think first impressions are usually right and the best ones.”
With a $10,000 crowd-funding loan from Kiva, the couple purchased a cooler and rotisserie for Radish. They are counting on their food and the Mother Road Market platform to make them a success.
“Once we started getting into the logistics of how we wanted to manage and operate in this building, we were really stunned and blown away with how generous they are to the tenants,” Smith said of LTFF officials. “They understand that there is a lot of financial difficulty in opening a spot. … You have to be able to sell your food to pay your bills off, pay your loans off, pay your staff, cover the cost of food.
“So the margins in food sales are really small. But being in a food hall will allow us more traffic and operate without overhead you would normally have in a larger restaurant.”