You know most chefs are a little crazy but…” You have to be a little crazy to open a restaurant!” Chef Johannes Klapdohr says laughing as he thinks about his newest endeavor.
He opens the door to Sapphire Valley’s historic Library building and the sounds of hammers and drills rings through the air. Inside men are busy at work installing a piece of 100-year-old reclaimed oak in the bar area. Sawdust is backlit by bright light streaming in through large windows 15 feet off the ground.
White shiplap is everywhere and the wide wooden planks of wood tightly packed together give the room a wide and open feeling that is only enhanced by the sky high ceiling that guests observe when looking upward.
“You see this chandelier?” Chef Johannes asks, pointing up at a beautiful glass ornamental French chandelier in the middle of the room. It’s antiqued golden brown with bright crystals draped through each candelabra.
“My partner Marvin Gralnick (founder of Chicos) pulled this from his warehouse. It used to hang in the New Orleans store, but was removed after Katrina. Now, it has a second life!
The chandelier gleams in response. It’s befitting that Sapphire Valley’s historic Library would be filled with objects that have witnessed history firsthand. The very structure was built around 1864 during the final days of the American Civil War, and was part of a working farm which produced vegetables, meats and wholesome dairy products for the neighboring old Fairfield Inn. After the old Fairfield Inn burned down, the building was turned into a library and filled with leatherback books for the general populace’s use for several decades until 1992 when it was repurposed into a restaurant, which it remains to this day.
The Library Kitchen and Bar’s relationship with an old hotel seems like ironic destiny especially for co-founder Chef Johannes whose entire identity is rooted in hospitality. “My great grandfather had a bar in a coal miner’s region of Germany. He was a great business man and once he noticed that the coal miner’s would like to drink before going to their tough and cruel jobs he would open his bar at 3 AM before they went to work. It was a very successful idea, indeed so successful that he could buy the famous hotel Bellevue in 1906 in my home town Bad Kreuznach. Bad Kreuznach was very important in the 1800’s and 1900’s until after the second world war.”
Historically, Bad Kreuznach was the equivalent to Aspen, Co or Martha’s Vineyard as a spa or wellness town. It was a beautiful retreat used by the wealthy and European monarchy for their summer residences until planes became an optimal mode of travel. The frequent visitors then would opt for travel to the Bahamas or Florida and the world changed.
“My great grandfather built a gas station right next to the hotel and was the first in the town to have a TV. He put it in the ball room. In 1954, all the hotel guests gathered there to watch the world cup,” Says Chef Johannes.
Chef Johannes’s family continued the tradition of running businesses each generation. He grew up in his parent’s restaurant in the same town. “I grew up in my parent’s own restaurant and at one point we had two hotels in my city. Entrepreneurship was always there and now it’s time to get back on track with the family tradition of owning a restaurant. This has always been my dream.”
Fate may have shown its hand when it introduced Marvin Gralnick to Chef Johannes a few years back. Both men enjoy the creative arts. Marvin’s preferred medium is a paintbrush and canvas, whereas Chef Johannes’s is food and plate, yet together they have dreamed up a unified vision for Library Kitchen and Bar that will pull color, texture, taste and smell together to inspire guests time and time again. “I want people to feel happy and inspired. We want people to walk away with a different sense of creativity,” Said Chef Johannes.
The menu will make use of what is in season and pull as many local ingredients from nearby farmers as possible. Chef Johannes is excited to put his spin on the restaurant and create beautiful works of art on each plate he serves. Marvin has special plans for adding his own creative touch to the restaurant by painting customized shirts for the wait staff enriched in his signature bold use of color and brush movement.
As news begins to spread about the Library Kitchen and Bar, Chef Johannes’ phone has been ringing off the hook with bookings far into 2017. Stay up to date with the ongoing renovations and updates by liking The Library Kitchen and Bar on Facebook here.
Be sure to meet Chef Johannes during the Main Event on Saturday, November 12th. Tickets are selling fast, so reserve yours today.