Tom Colicchio, the chef, restaurateur, and “Top Chef” judge, announced Wednesday that he had changed the name of his newest restaurant in New York City.
Colicchio opened what was then called Fowler & Wells in the newly renovated Beekman hotel and condo building last October. According to The New York Times, it was named for a publishing company and scientific institute that once operated on the site.
Lorenzo and Orson Fowler and Samuel Wells, who started the institute, were practitioners of phrenology, a school of thought that said you could understand aspects of people’s personality and mental strength by examining the shape of their skull. Phrenology was often used to justify slavery and racial discrimination in the 19th century.
Those implications seemed lost on Colicchio, as a section of Fowler & Wells’ cocktail menu even bore a diagram of the brain and was dubbed the Phrenological Cabinet.
A few months after the restaurant opened, a review by Pete Wells, the Times restaurant critic, pointed out the name’s racial implications.
“This is obviously not a side of phrenology that Mr. Colicchio, who is outspoken about his progressive politics, embraces,” Wells wrote.
The review, plus other suggestions from staff, caused Colicchio to rethink the name, The Times said. “I don’t think it was a bad idea to start with because we didn’t have any of the information we have now,” Colicchio told The Times. “I have a fairly liberal persona and never in a million years would consider myself a racist, so it never crossed my mind.”
Colicchio and his restaurant group, Crafted Hospitality, on Wednesday announced they had changed the restaurant’s name to Temple Court, a reference to The Beekman’s original name. New logos, menus, and signs have been put in place.
Colicchio commented on the change in a press release:
“In the mid-1800s, the building where The Beekman in New York City now stands housed the offices of Fowler & Wells, a pair of publishers and phrenologists. Using their names for my newest restaurant was a way to link us to the location’s past. After we opened, we dove more deeply into the works of Fowler & Wells and realized our research had been incomplete. We discovered facts about their beliefs that go against everything we stand for, both personally and as a company. With this information in hand, we decided to change the name of our restaurant to Temple Court, the original name of The Beekman’s historic building. Other than the name, the restaurant remains as it was originally conceived.”
Temple Court serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At dinner, guests can order à la carte or choose a five-course, $99-a-person tasting menu, which includes dishes like a lobster thermidor with chanterelle mushrooms and tarragon.