Q&A: Change on the menu for Blue Lemon’s longtime owner
WESTPORT — Since 2003, Blue Lemon has been a staple among the often-changing players in the downtown dining scene. On April 9, chef/owner Bryan Malcarney will close the restaurant doors after 13 years while he continues to run his other restaurant, Rory’s in Darien.
The owners of the Le Penguin Bistro in Greenwich are expected to take over Blue Lemon’s Sconset Square space and open a French bistro.
Malcarney, born in New Jersey, grew up in Wilton after moving there as a second-grader, said his mother’s cooking had a profound impact on his interest in the culinary field. Through high school and college, he worked at restaurants and bars in various capacities.
After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Malcarney attended the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan to hone his skills. He worked as a chef at Pietro’s in New York City and in Anguilla. When he returned from the Caribbean, he opened Blue Lemon and bought Rory’s in 2008.
In a recent interview with the Westport News, Malcarney talked about his experiences running a restaurant in Westport.
Westport News: Where did your interest in cooking start?
Malcarney: I learned to cook with my mom more or less. Started cooking with her when I was a kid whatever she was making. She was into making everything from scratch. If we had Mexican food, she would make her own tortillas. She just taught herself to cook. I kinda always wanted to have my own restaurant so that’s kind of the way it evolved.
WN: What was the impetus for closing Blue Lemon?
Malcarney: I’ve been here 12 and a half years, it’s kind of one of those things we needed to either re-invent the place or sell, and it’s been a long time, I don’t have the energy really to put into re-inventing this place. I would like to work a little less, see my kids.
WN: What’s one of your fondest memories about Westport?
Malcarney: I loved working with the DMA (Downtown Merchants Association) and doing a lot of their events. I think in the time that I was here they did a lot of great stuff like the Blues and BBQ Festival, when they closed Main Street and did that Art About Town. I think that’s unique stuff where it really kind of puts Westport on the map.
WN: Are you going to miss the clientele?
Malcarney: Oh yeah, they’re great, I mean we have some great regulars. I appreciate all the people who have been coming here for years. I’ve had customers who have been my customers since the day we opened and they still come now and that’s really nice to see. They become your friends.
WN: What aspects keep you interested and motivated to run a restaurant?
Malcarney: It’s cool to go to the Westport Farmers Market and see what vegetables are coming around in season and using those vegetables to make a special that night or different fish coming in a season, or it’s winter and you start doing more stews, so I think that’s the fun stuff. What drives me is making people happy. By far the part I enjoy the most is the cooking which in turn makes the customer happy, which is what I like.
WN: Do you feel that all the downtown construction has adversely affected business?
Malcarney: I think one problem is that there’s been a large number of restaurants that have opened in Westport and those have diluted the pool. There’s only a finite number of people in Westport. How can those people support all the restaurants? So I think it’s hard. I’m sure the construction hurts some, it’s hard to park. When it’s done they’re going to have more restaurants. I think one challenge that almost all the towns around Fairfield County are facing is how do they grow responsibly, that’s a tough thing. I think Westport should close Main Street and make it a pedestrian walkway and have some trees in the middle and benches. They way the town is growing you want Main Street to be a focal point and it seems like it’s getting lost a little due to everything.