Executive Chef, Daniel Porubiansky
Chef Daniel Porubiansky came to Century House Tavern in the spring of 2013, leaving the executive chef post at what is arguably the most highly regarded restaurant group in Atlanta, but bringing with him a wealth of experience in some of the nation's greatest kitchens to Woodstock. After a career that has spanned four decades, two continents, a fistful of AAA Diamonds, and nearly enough Michelin Stars to require three hands to count them, Porubiansky is bringing his cuisine home.
"The opportunity to be a partner and to have my own restaurant brought me to Woodstock," Porubiansky says of the move from Atlanta's Chulio group, the empire of Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison that includes Bacchanalia and Star Provisions. "The bonus is that I live here. Everybody talks local, and what could be more local than in your backyard?"
A deeply ingrained love of fresh ingredients, personal relationships with farmers and decades of experience in German and French kitchens will shape Porubiansky's development of the menu at Century House Tavern, but the basic concept will remain the same.
Porubiansky is a protege of Guenter Seeger, the German chef who helped put Atlanta on the culinary map with his focus on fresh ingredients, masterful technique and a positively Teutonic work ethic. In 1986, Chef Daniel answered a newspaper ad for a kitchen opening at The Dining Room of the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, where Seeger was the Chef. He left school but found his true calling.
"Chef Seeger not only developed me professionally and sent me to New York and Europe," Porubiansky recalls, "he also left me with the two most important lessons I’ll ever learn in a kitchen. First, he taught me to truly respect the ingredients. Gently handle a vegetable, use a piece of fish immediately. Someone took a lot of time and effort to grow it, raise it or catch it - it's my job to respect it and let it shine. Second, he taught me to work hard by working hard alongside me. He was right there sweating with us. Anything we could do, he could do faster and better, but he was always willing to lead by example and always happy to show anyone a new trick."
In 1988, Seeger sent Porubiansky to New York to serve under Eberhard Muller at Le Bernardin, the legendary Michelin three-star French seafood restaurant still to this day ranked as the best restaurant in New York and one of the top 20 in the world. The first thing Porubiansky came away from his nearly two years at Le Bernardin was an intimate understanding of the brigade de cuisine, the old French kitchen system developed by Escoffier, with just as much precision and unflinching hierarchy and plenty of sharp objects to boot. Muller put him through the paces as patissier, garde manger, and poissonnier.
The second thing Porubiansky left New York with was a wife. His cousin came visiting from Binghamton, New York, with a young friend named Andrea. A moonlit carriage ride through Central Park and love ever after ensued.
"Not to be cheesy, but it was like that Christopher Cross song, 'Lost between the Moon and New York City,'" Porubiansky muses. "What can you do but fall in love?"
When Seeger sent Porubiansky to Michelin two- and three-star restaurants in Germany to apprentice for a year and a half, Andrea waited for him. They married as soon as he returned.
After another tour with Seeger at The Dining Room, a stint in Dallas and the top job in the Buckhead kitchen at the brand-new Seeger's restaurant, Porubiansky joined Bacchanalia as chef de cuisine in 2000. There he developed a "fancy" lunch concept and made quite an impression on Quatrano and Harrison, but the post-9/11 mini-recession put the squeeze on high-end everything. Porubiansky returned to The Dining Room for a fourth tour, this time under Bruno Menard. Porubiansky took over as chef de cuisine when Menard left for Japan. He returned to Seeger's, but Quatrano and Harrison offered him the newly created position of executive chef in 2007, where he led operations and staff at Bacchanalia, Star Provisions and Quinones at Bacchanalia.
"I've been making the trek to Atlanta every day for 13 years," Porubiansky sighs. "It was time. I can't thank Annie and Cliff enough. They were there for me and Andrea in our darkest times, even setting up an insurance program for all of their staff when a health scare for my wife meant going without insurance was not an option. I will never forget my time working with Annie and Cliff."
"What's telling about those two," Porubiansky continues, "is how happy they were for me when I joined Century House Tavern. I'm very excited for all the new possibilities of building this great community right here in my town, but I will miss Bacchanalia."
Porubiansky lives with his wife, Andrea, and their four children in Woodstock, Ga., just a few minutes from Century House Tavern, as they have for the last 13 years.
Managing Partner & General Manager, Jon Hayano
Jon Hayano runs the front of the house at Century House Tavern, setting the finishing touches with local art, craft beverages and finely tuned service. Longtime Atlanta diners and restaurant biz folks will remember him behind the bar at Harry & Sons mixing drinks and extending a warm welcome since the Virginia-Highland Asian bistro first opened 20 years ago.
“Woodstock right now reminds me of Virginia-Highland in those days,” reminisces Jon. “It’s a place with a lot of history that was forgotten, and now there’s a new energy and people are scrambling to build this community into a place they and their children will enjoy for a long time.” Jon came to Atlanta in the 1980s from his native Minneapolis to attend art school for design and photography. His eye as a photographer led him to a studio career in New York after graduation, where he spent three years. Feeling the pull of the South, he returned to Atlanta to start his own studio. It was this second tour in Atlanta that introduced him to his wife, Jeannine, also a photographer.
“In the dining room at Century House, one of Jeannine’s photographs is hanging very prominently,” Jon remarks proudly.
Looking for a career change, Jon sold his studio and took an offer from a friend to manage the bar at Harry & Sons, a brand-new Thai/sushi concept opening in the newly hip neighborhood. Jon remained a fixture there from the day it opened until May 2012.
Jon’s influences can be seen in the local art and photography covering the walls of the restaurant; the warm, expert service and the creative drink menu Jon crafts with his bar staff.
Assistant General Manager, Alex Shumila
Alex Shumila is the eyes of Century House Tavern. He’s constantly on watch, scanning the dining room to see if anything is out of place, watching the front-of-the-house staff to make sure they’re on top of the ever-changing menu and their guests’ needs, and always looking out for a friendly face.
“I like getting to know the people that are starting to become our regulars and introducing them to new things,” Alex explains. “Sometimes I like to treat people to things I know they’ll love. There’s no math equation to it, but I know that if someone’s coming in every week, it’s the least I can do to let them try a little something on me. I love taking care of our guests.”
Alex is a native of Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland. His gymnastics coach mom is connected to possibly the only worldwide household name to ever come out of the country: she was the director of the gym where Olga Korbut trained.
The Cold War may have ended in 1991, but the political climate in Belarus didn’t warm with the rest of the east. Alex’s family immigrated to Roswell, GA, when he was 11. America was a consumer paradise to him, with shelves stocked to the heavens with goods unimaginable from his early childhood, but he kept a fascination with the outside world with him. After getting into the restaurant world, he took a break to tour the agriturismi of Italy, working farms, bottling wine and pressing olive oil. His plans to stay for a year were cut short as refugees from Arab Spring conflicts flooded the airports—they managed to get on board one of the last flights out of Italy for months.
When he returned, he found a job serving at Canoe in Vinings and not long after, a friend lined up a job at INC Street Food. As Alex’s star rose and he became more known in the community he was asked to join the team at CHT. Several of the staff followed Alex to the new venture, forging an uncommon level of trust and camaraderie at a new restaurant.
When you come in the door at Century House, Alex’s is often the first face you see—even before the host. Get to know him and he will certainly get to know you.
Century House website: http://www.centuryhousetavern.com/
While the menu changes seasonally, this is what's currently available: http://www.centuryhousetavern.com/menus/dinner_menu.pdf