“We’re running around like crazy,” says chef Klaus Georis. “But he’s a good fool.”
Sous chefs Greg Delgadillo and Austen Falls hover over a grill and wood-burning fireplace to test recipes. There’s a ladder wedged in one corner, light fixtures lined up on a table opposite, ready to be mounted. Moments before, emails were flying from a laptop. There is an air of something imminent.
Georis estimates that his long-awaited restaurant will finally open in three to four weeks, which in times of hospitality is an instant. But it’s a concept that’s been in the works for four years, underway before Covid snuffed out many projects. He kept busy as much as he could, running pop-up kitchens and cooking at Bar Crenn in San Francisco until plans for the restaurant could be revived.
“It’s nice to finally be able to go back to a space,” Georis says. “Getting back to work is the most beautiful thing.”
Maligne, pronounced “Maleen,” occupies a corner of Broadway in Seaside and will feature seafood. Georis hopes it will become a Seaside neighborhood haunt. The basis of the cuisine is the gastronomic technique applied to moderately priced dishes.
Georis grew up in the local restaurant business. His family is responsible for Casanova, Corkscrew Cafe and Georis Winery. He has also worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Europe and San Francisco. Delgadillo plied his trade in Pescadero and the Bay Area season. Falls is a Post Ranch veteran who also worked at Single Thread in Healdsburg.
But the approach to Maligne is more discreet. Trying to define their style, Georis shrugs and explains, “I wish I could say ‘we serve food.’ We are not a grill, although we do have a grill. We are not French, we are not Italian. We’re just here to cook great food.
Still, they’re gourmet chefs, so they can’t resist little touches, like dry-aging fish in-house, that pay noticeable dividends on the plate. When it comes to red meat, Georis sources dairy beef.
“I’ve done a lot in Europe,” he says. “It’s a great product.”
For dessert, expect Belgian waffles cooked over a wood fire.
But there is another objective, just as important to the dining experience, perhaps more: quality of life. Many of the six million restaurant workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic have not returned to work, citing cost of living concerns.
Restaurant owners have been forced to adapt, sometimes reluctantly, in an era of skyrocketing costs. In the case of Georis, he firmly believes in paying a fair wage.
Thus, at Maligne, the plan is to display a 20% service charge on each invoice. The money will go directly to staff salaries. This is an idea that is gaining momentum in the industry. A study last summer by One Fair Wage found that more than 1,600 restaurants paid full minimum wage to staff members, often through the use of service charges.
“It’s an important thing to be able to do,” says Georis. “That 20% is there to supplement their salaries and help pay for health insurance.”
According to One Fair Wage, there is a beneficial ripple effect. Seven states do not allow less than minimum pay for tipped workers. These states have seen higher growth rates for small restaurants, increased restaurant sales and employment compared to states that allow rates as low as the federal minimum wage of $2.13 per hour .
A study by the National Women’s Law Center found that in states with fair wages, the poverty rate for black tip workers was significantly lower (34 percent) than in states adhering to the federal minimum.
For Georis, this can solve a crucial equation. “Without becoming an expensive restaurant, how can staff be allowed to have a quality of life? he says.
The restaurant will always add a tip line to the bill as an option. This money will be shared among staff members.
“It’s time to revive new restaurants,” says Georis.