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Exceptional Buffalo chefs, beverage gurus plan cooperative Chandler Street bistro

Five of Buffalo's talented young food and drink professionals plan to pool their talents in a small restaurant that would be part of Rocco Termini’s Chandler Street redevelopment in Black Rock.

The partners signed a lease for 27 Chandler St., an agreement contingent on securing a bank loan, which is not yet approved.

Although it’s not a sure thing, the planned restaurant is notable because of the people involved, and the unusual cooperative organizational structure they are contemplating.

Edward Forster (whose resume includes Mike A's at the Lafayette, Buffalo Proper, Dapper Goose), Joseph Fenush (Toutant), Jessica Railey (Dobutsu), Tony Rials (Mike A's, Bourbon & Butter, Billy Club), and Jeff Yannuzzi (Toutant, Community Beer Works) will be equal partners in the prospective venture, Forster said.

Their current plan is to be the only workers, except for a dishwasher, Forster said.

This is their plan: If you have something to eat, Forster or Fenush will make it and serve you. If you have something to drink, Railey, Rials, or Yannuzzi will have selected it, or made it.

[Read more: Welcome to Chandlerville - Buffalo's fledgling district for eating and drinking]

They are determined to try that structure to combat difficulties in the current standard restaurant structure, Forster said, including laws requiring differing pay structures for servers and cooks, and the difficulty of finding dedicated co-workers.

“It’s supposed to be about the five of us, and our shared voice,” Forster said. The organizational model is “nothing we’ve ever seen, done or operated before,” Forster said. “We haven’t seen it happen yet, and obviously it takes a great amount of friendship and understanding and patience, and everything that comes with it, for the five of us to operate like this. I don’t know that it existed before, where it’s just the inmates running the asylum.”

The partners have filed for a liquor permit, and have a lease contingent on getting a loan, Forster said. They hope to hear about it in coming days or weeks, he said. “Then we have a business.”

[Related: The challenges of finding quality restaurant workers in Buffalo]

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