Fond, the French-influenced bistro that helped put East Passyunk Avenue on the destination-dining map a dozen years ago, closed last weekend as the pandemic has forced chef-owners Lee Styer and Jessie Prawlucki-Styer to rethink the future.
“This is not the ideal situation for a restaurant like Fond,” Lee Styer said recently . But the climate is better for the homespun concept of their popular Pennsport bruncherie, The Dutch, which they will move it into Fond’s space at 11th and Tasker Streets.
The Styers are targeting March for the rollout, keeping The Dutch at Fourth and Cross Streets open in the interim. They said Fond gift cards would be honored at the new restaurant.
The corner, facing the Singing Fountain, is undergoing change. Noord will close at the end of December to yield to a new restaurant called Mish Mish.
The Styers’ decision follows a series of pandemic pivots for the couple who met as students at the Culinary Institute of America in 2003 and worked for Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin before opening Fond at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave. (now Laurel) in 2009 with Tory Keomanivong. They moved to the current location in 2012 and bought the building.
With the dining room closed during the depth of the pandemic last winter, Lee Styer built an outside grill and sold hot sausage sandwiches and other fare, making the sausage in Fond’s basement subkitchen before grilling it to order himself at an inviting curbside firepit setup. The couple even sold supplies including toilet paper and house-made hand sanitizer, from the restaurant’s supply closet, out of Fond’s Tasker Street windows during lockdown in 2020. When indoor dining returned, Lee Styer found himself working solo in the kitchen most of the time.
The uncertainty of COVID-19 hastened the closing; the couple will not host any farewell dinners, choosing to open New Year’s Eve only for cocktails and snacks at the bar.
The Styers’ move also is a reaction to a growing frustration among restaurateurs about staffing. They will enjoy a full staff again when The Dutch’s nine employees move to the Fond space.
Chef Kevin Waters, who was a part of The Dutch for six years, since the Styers opened it with then-partner Joncarl Lachman, will become a partner. And though the Styers won’t regularly serve the signature pork belly, chicken liver mousse, crispy pork rillettes, and country-style pâté of Fond, the couple are planning Fond-theme pop-up events, including pastries from Prawlucki-Styer.
The new format, Lee Styer said, will give them greater freedom and the chance to “do things our way.” They recently moved from South Philadelphia to the suburbs to raise their two young children. “We even got a dog during the pandemic, just like everyone else did,” Prawlucki-Styer said.