5 Courses with Sean Griffing and Eric Papachristos of Trade


Jody Adams is arguably one of the most beloved - and thus bankable - chefs in Boston. The longtime chef/owner of Rialto is the type who would be awfully attractive to real-estate entities with space to lease, investors with deep pockets, and potential partners looking to court a high-profile chef into a new kitchen. Case in point: "It was the guys' idea. They convinced me," says Adams of her new restaurant, Trade (540 Atlantic Avenue, Boston), opening in early fall on Atlantic Wharf. She's speaking of her business partners in the venture, two gorgeous darlings of the Boston restaurant scene: Sean Griffing, a longtime member of Rialto's inner circle, and Eric Papachristos, a restaurant entrepreneur. (These two previously partnered on the Hen House, a casual waffles-and-wings restaurant.) Adams guarantees a marquee attraction, but she's not the only name worth knowing here - so we sat down for a brief exchange with the guys behind Trade.

How did you all come together?

Eric Papachristos: I grew up working at my dad's pizza place in the mornings, tending bar at night when I turned 18. I've worked in corporate finance in LA and in Boston, but I always stayed close to the restaurant world. It fed my entrepreneurial bug and was the center of my social life. My first solo entrepreneurial project was buying Victoria's Diner. Sean and I first met as bartenders at the Mercury Bar years ago when we were in school.

Sean Griffing: I've worked with Jody since 2003. We share the same idea about running a restaurant: it's your staff that makes a restaurant work. No one's going to get fame and glory working in a restaurant. You have to build a community out of the people you work with and the people you serve.

How did the Hen House experience prepare you for Trade?

Eric: We first partnered on the Hen House in the middle of the worst financial crisis - I hope! - in America. Let's just say that the Hen House is still in business, and we are still partners and friends.

Is it a big leap from the Hen House to a full-service, chef-driven 207-seat restaurant on the Waterfront?

Eric: It is a big leap. And it's a milestone for me to work on a restaurant project of this size, with this kind of visibility, and with a chef like Jody, who is so passionate and inspired about food.

Sean: Yeah, you used to say that all that "fine-dining stuff was just paying for the frills." Linens, fancy wine glasses. Now you know what goes into making eating out into a dining experience.

What's your favorite thing about Trade?

Eric: Our Wood Stone oven from Seattle - a huge ceramic hearth. My grandmother had something like this in Greece, outdoors, tucked into the yard, next to the barn.

Sean: My grandmother in Sicily used one too - a communal hearth where everyone in town brought their bread to bake every morning.

How do the three of you resolve differences?

Sean: First of all, we all have skin in the game, and that makes a difference. Second, I pick my battles carefully. If Eric and Jody are very emphatic about something but have a rational, informed reason for their point of view, even if I disagree, I let it go. For example, today we had a very opinionated conversation about linen choices - Eric probably doesn't even register that it was a disagreement. A subjective choice, so I let it go. I only put my hand up when I think they are making a wrong decision.

Eric: Did I miss something today in our meeting?

Louisa Kasdon can be reached at louisa@louisakasdon.com.