What happens when two chefs who happen to be husband and wife bring a taste of New England home to the Main Line? The toughest reservation in Wayne.
Christine and Nick Kondra in the kitchen at Cornerstone.
Christine and Nick Kondra met at Nantucket’s famed Straight Wharf Restaurant, but after calling New England home for years, Christine, a Berwyn native, longed to return to the Main Line.
Today, the chef duo now reside in Wayne, where this past fall they opened Cornerstone Cheese & Charcuterie— a quaint 14-seat culinary experience where shoppers can scoop up gourmet grab-and-go foods, as well as internationally sourced cheeses and sublime meals that include house-made terrines, pates, and sausages.
And in the spirit of bringing the very best to the Main Line, Cornerstone features a bimonthly series hosted by big-name chefs from places like Napa and their beloved Nantucket. Here, the Kondras talk about the concept, choosing cheeses, and what it’s like sharing not one but two kitchens.
Cornerstone specializes in artisanal charcuterie.
What inspired you to open Cornerstone? Nick Kondra: After four seasons on Nantucket and winters in the New England area, we wanted to move near family, and soon realized we wanted to open a restaurant on the Main Line. We knew there was a market out here for a restaurant that would jive with our style of food. It was just going to be a matter of when, not if. I was working at Marc Vetri’s Amis when we got a call that this space might be available. We jumped at the chance.
Christine Kondra: I would do pairing parties on Nantucket with wine and cheese and oysters. And that’s really where the organic genesis of Cornerstone came from. We’re focusing on really good seasonal ingredients that allow the food to speak for itself. We bring the best of the best in from the country, if not internationally, and we’re held accountable every day for providing the best there is.
Is cheese pairing a big part of the Cornerstone experience? CK: You have to see the bottles of wine that are coming through here. These are incredibly expensive bottles coming from private cellars. The moment I see the bottle I can start pairing cheeses just for that wine. I talk to the guests about the stories behind the cheeses. People liked to joke around and say everything tastes so much better with the story behind it. And then I always tell them that if there weren’t a story I wouldn’t bring the cheese in.
The restaurant stocks up to 60 varieties of international cheeses and accoutrements.
How is the nighttime experience different than the day? NK: When people who normally come in during the day come in at night they’re totally blown away. It’s a very different vibe. It goes from being fun and casual to very intimate and candlelit. Everything’s romantic, and either Sinatra or the Temptations are playing in the background. We bring in high-top tables covered with white tablecloths, candles, flowers. The whole bit.
You’ve worked together in the past, but this is the first time you’ve owned something together. How’s that going? NK: It’s tough enough opening a restaurant, but when it’s husband and wife together it has its own set of challenges. But anything that’s happened this year has only strengthened our relationship. We calm each other down.
CK: We’ve worked beside each other for a number of years, but to have the first brick and mortar has been really great. The first six months is pretty tough for anyone opening a restaurant together, let alone if you’re married. I couldn’t do this without Nick, though. People always ask us who is a better chef, and I say that we’re different chefs. We complement each other’s strengths, which makes us better in the long run. 1 West Ave., Wayne, 610-688-1888