Home cookin’: Team of East Jefferson culinary experts to take over Fort Worden food concession
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Kris Nelson, shown serving beverages at her Sirens Pub in Port Townsend, is part of the team that will be running the new Fort Worden food service operation. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — As it prepares to take over food service at Fort Worden next week, the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Public Development Authority has assembled a culinary supergroup to develop a locally sourced eating experience.

The team is headed by Kristan McCary as the “front-of-house” director, aided by Kris Nelson and Arran Stark as consultants.

Executive chef Nicholas Colletti rounds out the team, which will take over food service management at Fort Worden on Tuesday.

McCary has owned the Ajax Cafe in Port Hadlock for 10 years.

Nelson, who is also Port Townsend’s deputy mayor, has owned and operated several local restaurants in recent years and now runs Alchemy Bistro and Sirens Pub.

Colletti has worked as a chef in several restaurants, most recently the Ajax Cafe.

Stark, currently food service director at Jefferson Healthcare hospital, has worked as a chef and caterer in Port Townsend.

“This will be a lot of work,” Stark said. “But it’s a great opportunity to develop a community-supported operation that can also help to build local businesses.

“Fort Worden has always been a fort, a park or a correctional facility but has never been open for development by the people of Port Townsend.

“This gives us the potential to do so many things.”

Nelson said the PDA would like to use the space to develop outlets for locally grown food.

“Someone could take the coffee shop and turn it into a really great space that people will want to visit rather than a place that just serves coffee,” she said.

“We’ve never had an a la carte restaurant at Fort Worden. This will give us a chance to serve dinner out here when people come for a show, or they can come out for just dinner.”

Nelson said the fort has several spaces that can be converted into food service venues, perhaps building a space for dinner theater or providing a replacement for The Upstage, a popular downtown Port Townsend club that closed in 2013.

“This was born out of necessity, but it’s evolving into a really beautiful thing,” McCary said.

“This is a really neat group of people that has a lot of experience.”

Bon Appetit, a national catering company, has provided food service at Fort Worden for five years and has operated in three locations, providing food service for conferences, the Local Goods Cafe inside the Commons and the Cable House canteen on the beach.

It notified the PDA in July about its intention to close down its operation Sept. 2.

This set the PDA, which took over management of the park in May, scrambling to find a replacement before it decided to assemble its own team.

Once this occurred, the new team began to prepare to provide food service for the events that were already reserved for the next few months.

“The first thing we needed to do was to fill all the orders and make sure that we understood what people wanted,” Nelson said.

“We offered everyone on the staff the opportunity to apply to work for us, and we all are pulling from our own cooks and waitstaffs and the people we know to fill these orders.”

“The challenge is making sure that we are set up and ready,” McCary said.

“We are definitely capable.”

Nelson said it will take awhile to develop a menu identity for the venture.

The focus is now on filling banquet orders and providing choices the customers will like.

Beyond that, Nelson hopes to mold the venture’s identity, but as a collaborator rather than the final decision maker.

“I love creating new businesses — the creative process and extreme challenge of building something new,” she said.

“This isn’t about one person carrying the water.

“A lot of people are working together, which is a fantastic new experience for me.”


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 27. 2014 6:32PM
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