In the culinary world, a stage (pronounced staahj) is an internship where an aspiring cook works in a kitchen—or series of them—in order to study different techniques and cuisines. Stage, a new restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, was founded in the same spirit of inquisitiveness and open-minded learning.
Chef Pushkar Marathe grew up in India, trained in Switzerland, and worked in restaurants throughout the Caribbean, Middle East, and U.S. He met partner and general manager Andy Dugard when the duo ran the Palm Beach location of Meat Market. After deciding to open their own restaurant, they enlisted Gregory Genias, better known as Bootleg Greg, to develop their innovative bar program.
“People think we’re an Indian restaurant because we have an Indian chef,” says Dugard, “but our food is globally inspired by [Marathe’s] travels. Our motto is flavor-focused cuisine crafted by intuition.”
Marathe’s intuition encompasses dishes as diverse as lentil fritters, Korean barbecue ribs, yellowfin tuna ceviche, and fried chicken, as well as curries and a selection of Indian breads. He also aims to make food that is as healthy as it is creative. “We use butter and cream very sparingly, just as they do in the Mediterranean diet, and most of our menu is naturally gluten-free,” explains Marathe. “It’s not just conscious eating but also conscious cooking.”
Stage’s on-site garden produces 30 herbs and botanicals that are used in both the kitchen and bar program. “Natural expression of ingredients is very important in the food the chef creates, and I try to pair that in the cocktails,” says Genias. “Everything is either fresh from our garden or sourced from local purveyors.”
A good example is the “I’m Just Here for the Comments,” a cross between a gin and tonic and a spritz. The foundation of the drink is Glendalough Rose Gin, double-distilled with foraged botanicals and rose petals. Genias then adds Cappelletti, a spicy but subtle wine-based Italian aperitivo similar to Campari or Aperol, and Fever-Tree Tonic, a top-quality mixer infused with Indian spices that match the restaurant’s flavor profile. Served in a 19-ounce stemless coupe and garnished with star anise and basil blossoms from the garden, it reflects what Dugard calls “the harmonious tug of war” between the kitchen and the bar. “I try to create goosebumps with every cocktail I make,” adds Genias. “I want customers to be inquisitive and ask questions.”
This enthusiastic mindset is also demonstrated in Dugard’s approach to hospitality. “I try to be gracious to each and every guest,” he says. “I want them to feel as comfortable as they are in their own living rooms.”