New restaurant ‘The Kitchen’ needed to make change — and what this ‘hot mess’ says about the state of St. Pete

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Well, that didn’t take long.

After just a couple weeks in business, the Kitchen St. Pete has had a shake up in the kitchen. Executive chef Sean Squires is no longer part of Jeff Knight’s Jannus Live entertainment complex, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Having dined twice at The Kitchen, I am not in the least surprised.  The place was a hot mess.

Host stand here, open-air kitchen there. Some tables next to the street here, inside dining there.

The only thing I could not locate at The Kitchen was my waiter, who my wife was certain had taken two smoke breaks during the short time he waited on us (pregnant women have exceptional senses of smell).

If the layout of The Kitchen was in disarray, it’s only because it matched the sprawl of the menu.  Like so many of the restaurants Squires has helmed — 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, Island Way — the menu was all things to all people.

Chicken-and-waffles? Check.

Garlicky Yuca? Check.

Sushi? Yes, Sushi. Check.

During a Friday night we dined at The Kitchen, it was particularly chaotic, but that is to be expected from a restaurant elbowed into such a hectic spot.

There is too much foot traffic and too little sense of where the restaurant begins and ends.  Those sitting outside, perhaps next to MacDinton’s, sometimes feel as if they are in an entirely different world than those inside, ordering a full dinner.

Perhaps the concept itself, of a multi-pronged, multi-purpose restaurant, was doomed to failure, regardless of who was leading the kitchen at The Kitchen.

All of this said, I believe there is a lesson for the rest of downtown, if not the city, to be found in the struggles of The Kitchen and it is this: not all new ideas are good.  Not every development underway in downtown is a good idea. Not every new restaurant is another Bella Brava or Parkshore Grill.  Not every ‘new man’ in town will be as generous as Bill Edwards.

St. Petersburg has arrived at that point where its success will attract those looking to cash in on this success.  There will be developers who see Beach Drive and Central Avenue and ask, why can’t the block that I own be like that?

Those of us who care and love the ‘burg and have done so far a while must be careful to not let what we’ve worked for be spoiled by those looking to stand on the shoulders of those who came before.

The truth is The Kitchen is a dysfunctional restaurant.  But the real truth is, the restaurant should probably not have been built in the first place.  It cannibalizes the health of other nearby restaurants without adding something new or worthwhile. For example, The Kitchen offers sushi, but, three doors down, Ratchada does as well, and does so well.

What The Kitchen will do well remains to be seen.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.