Flavors: Braving the Pandemic: The Marble Table Opens
Marble is a strong metamorphic rock the Greeks and Romans used for sculptures, signifying refinement and tradition. Jason and Jen carry the name Marble, and in 2020, they lived up to the strength the name implied.
During the COVID 19 Pandemic, the couple made the decision to open up The Marble Table restaurant, serving up “elevated comfort food” on Montana Avenue. A week after they invited diners into their restaurant, the National Restaurant Association released an article entitled: “Restaurant Industry in Freefall: 100,000 Close in Three Months,” reporting 17% of restaurants, more than 110,000 establishments closed permanently or for the long term in 2020 during the pandemic.
Among others, the pandemic saw Oktoberfest, JP Kitchen, and Lilac shuttered. This fortuitously gave the Marbles the opportunity to take over the vacated Lilac space. Jason’s tenure captaining kitchens at Bistro Enzo, Uberbrew and Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill, along with Jen’s time in the business world created a strong resume.
Jen shared, “We decided to open up because it couldn’t get any worse than what it was, and we were really struggling, trying to figure out what we were going to do. We just decided: why not do it! When you have a dream, you might as well go for it!” After calculating all the numbers, the Marbles concluded that opening up The Marble Table could be viable.
With governmental safety requirements and guidelines mostly in place, the Marbles knew how to prepare their restaurant for opening and takeout. Chef Jaso shared, “The food philosophy is going to be familiar, approachable, and non-pretentious, as well as being takeout friendly. We like to say it should be like your grandma went to culinary school.”
The couple also took into consideration the special packaging required to ensure that the take-out food would arrive fresh and intact, and representative of the dish that was served contemporaneously in their restaurant.
Making clients feel COVID-safe and comfortable was foremost in the redesign of the dining space. In recreating the décor for the restaurant, Jen dove into her “crafty” self. Before COVID, she owned Rustic Nest Designs - sign painting venture, but has had a background in accounting and business management, “helping other people run their businesses and having great customer service.” While having talents with the backend of businesses, Jen confessed to being an extrovert and enjoying the interaction with customers and the front of the house team. She also took on the responsibility of creating the unique décor.
To assure diners of a safe eating experience, Jen recruited the help of her father-in-law, David, to help with creating table dividers from old wooden doors. A window was inserted at the top of each door and then framed to form a partition between tables, creating a cozy COVID-friendly physical separation between tables, and also making a nice sound barrier. She shared, “I had drawn the design out on a piece of paper, and I said I am going to build these.” Knowing how busy Jen would get, David stepped in and built the dividers. Son Michael also got involved, “picking up old doors that barely fit in the back of my truck,” assisting Jen when she found a discarded door that she wanted for the project.
At sixteen, Michael also works in the kitchen helping with dishes and at the pantry station. The Marbles are hoping their three daughters will join them in their business soon. Aside from making this a family affair, Jen said, “We want all of our kids here if that is where they choose to be so we can help them learn how to participate in the workforce. “
The couple has known each other since childhood. Jen initially found Jason “annoying” when they were in band class together as an eighth grader playing alto saxophone, and he, in seventh grade, playing trumpet. They reconnected at Senior High School, again playing in band class together. One day in her sophomore year, Jen needed a ride home. His 1972 Blue Chevy Truck may have provided him the right calling card, but Jason had other talents to share, “He used to cook for the formals. We didn’t go out that much.” Jen continued, “He used to cook these huge, beautiful meals in the basement of the nursery.” Both had worked at the Billings Nursery and Landscaping, Jason’s family’s business with Jason focusing on landscape work.
The “family affair” continues with life-long friend Christopher McCann as the Sous Chef. He was also in band together with the Marbles. “Marble and I have been cooking together for the last five years. We started at the Last Chance Cider Mill just down the street, moved to Uberbrew, where he was the Executive Chef, and then to Enzo at the other end of town. When he told me he was going to buy a restaurant I told him: You’re crazy, but we’re going to do this.”
The Marble Table is reaching out to Carter’s Brewing across the street providing the food to go along with Michael Uhrich’s beer.
After nearly two months of operation, the most popular dishes from the “elevated comfort food” menu are their “Braised Short Ribs”, composed of smoked beef short ribs braised in red wine and served with mashed potatoes and garlic mushrooms, and “Chicken Piccata,” a Airline chicken breast on fettuccine with a lemon caper butter wine sauce, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and a seasoned grilled lemon. For appetizers, the “Jalapeno Corn Fritters” are diner favorites while the Citrus and Vanilla Crème Brûlée is the winning dessert.
The Marble Table has defied the statistics and trends of the restaurant industry during this COVID Pandemic. May their strong will and tenacity continue to move them forward in bringing comfort and new flavors to our community.