Allium Eatery opens in Westport, fulfilling the chef’s childhood dream

WESTPORT — What started as a therapeutic way to escape from reality has blossomed into a full-time business for Michelle Greenfield, chef and owner of Allium Eatery.

Greenfield opened the doors to her own restaurant at 54 Railroad Place nearly four weeks ago and achieved her childhood dream.

“It was the only thing I wanted to do,” she said.

She said despite opening with the looming cloud of COVID and facing some challenges with construction, the business has grown “organically.”

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Greenfield said. “I spent so much time here during construction that it feels like home, it feels right. I’m still waiting for that oh wow moment.”

As a child, cooking was “the dream.”

Her passion was further entrenched when she entered her high school’s culinary program. At the age of 16, the Newtown native worked in her first restaurant. She later attended the Culinary Institute of America where she received her degree and then headed to work in Providence at an Italian restaurant making fresh pasta.

Afterwards, she returned to Connecticut to work as a sous chef at Sarah’s Wine Bar in Ridgefield for five years, learning the French techniques of cooking. She then catered in Hudson Valley, worked at Jesup Hall with Bill Taibe in Westport and led the team at the Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton, where she had free rein of the menu.

That is where she honed her style.

As COVID approached and closed Schoolhouse at Cannondale, it freed Greenfield to imagine her own place.

“I said ‘Why not open my own restaurant?’” Greenfield said. “It was always a dream to have my own restaurant.”

She said that over the years, owning her own establishment has come and gone through her experience working with restaurants.

“I’ve seen the stress and struggle of owning a restaurant. It’s a tough industry, but I think for the scale that we’re doing here, for me it’s manageable,” she said.

It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and then from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break before reopening for dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays, according to the restaurant’s Instagram.

During the day, the restaurant is set up as a grab and go causal cafe, which led her to pick a location next to the train station for the high pedestrian traffic. From Thursday to Sunday, the restaurant also adds dinner services.

“This is my interpretation of trying to survive in the industry,” she said. “The dinner services are the part that I love, that kind of speaks to my soul as far as creating those menus and kind of making the culinary brain fire.”

The key to Greenfield’s restaurant, which she describes as modern American with French undertones, is flexibility.

Each week, new items appear on the menu and different ingredients are brought to the store. Greenfield said she enjoys working with different ingredients to make meals and it also allows customers to come in and figure out what they want on the menu.

With COVID, restaurants have had to be more flexible to survive in general, however, Greenfield said being flexible is a part of the industry that she has always liked.

She said Allium Eatery does a lot of business with locally sourced food from the nearby farms. Even when they don’t have the “normal” ingredients, she takes what they have in season and crafts new meals around it.

Greenfield said other people might worry if they can’t get certain food or ingredients, but it doesn’t matter for her because she can substitute.

“It gives us flexibility to utilize products and be creative and try new things out,” she said. “It keeps us on our toes. The wheels are always turning and that’s always what I’ve done, but I guess it makes more sense now.”