Groundwork Kitchen in Pigtown to Reopen in December Under New Management

| November 9, 2022 | 0 Comments

Paul’s Place will reopen its Groundwork Kitchen restaurant at 926 Washington Blvd. in December under new management. Melanie Molinaro has been announced as the General Manger and Jonathan Hicks is the new Executive Chef. Groundwork Kitchen, which has a dining room and carryout shop, has been closed since January “due to the pandemic.”

Groundwork Kitchen is a $10-million, 14,000 sq. ft. culinary arts training center, restaurant, and carryout shop that replaced a parking lot in Pigtown. The carryout shop first opened in July 2021 and its restaurant opened in October 2021. Its training program also began in October 2021. The 12-week training program has continued while the retail portion was closed.

Molinaro has worked in the food service industry since the age of 19. She helped open restaurants Nickel Taphouse, Encantada, Birroteca’s two locations, Stall 11, and Molina Pizza & Polpette. In recent years, Molinaro’s focus has been on Little Fig Bake Shop, a small batch bake shop specializing in vegan sweets, and Plantry Goods, a wholesale company specializing in vegan fried chicken. She opened both with her husband who is now overseeing operations as she takes on her new role at Groundwork Kitchen.

Molinaro will hire 20 to 30 new employees, help develop a new menu, and look to expand catering opportunities at Groundwork Kitchen.

Molinaro told the menu will be “New American.” It will have house-made pastas, burgers, sandwiches, fish, flatbreads, vegan options, and Maryland favorites such as crab cakes.

“I want the menu to be really well-rounded and accessible for everyone,” said Molinaro.

Groundwork Kitchen previously only had a dining room, but the team is currently building out a bar.

The carryout shop will act as a “morning cafe” with coffee, espresso, pastries, bagel sandwiches, croissants, donuts, and pastries. It will offer a combination of products made in house and from local bakeries. It will eventually sell pastas and other handmade products by Groundwork Kitchen students.

“I wasn’t really looking for a job,” said Molinaro. “What I really loved about this place is the training program. There is nothing like this in Baltimore. I wanted to be in a role where I can be supportive and give back as someone who has experience.”

She also noted she loves opening restaurants.

“We’re thrilled to have Melanie join the Groundwork Kitchen/Paul’s Place team,” said Tim Regan, executive director of Paul’s Place, in a press release. “She brings tremendous experience from across the Baltimore restaurant industry, which will be a tremendous asset as we re-launch Groundwork Kitchen.”

Maryland native Chef Hicks, who is also known as “The Uneek Chef,” has been working in the restaurant industry for more than two decades. Chef Hicks earned an A.S. in culinary arts and a B.S. in food entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University. Chef Hicks has helped with the opening efforts of Baltimore area restaurants Earth Wood & Fire, George Martins Grillfire Cosima at Mill No.1, and Cozy Café. Chef Hicks has worked in kitchens including Waterfront Kitchen, Birroteca, Nickel Taphouse, and The Local.

Chef Hicks has participated in various cooking competitions including the World Food Championships in 2019, 2021, and 2022. He has earned multiple wins at Restaurant Association of Maryland sponsored events and was named the Maryland Agriculture/ Governor Hogan Catfish Battle Champ in both 2021 and 2022. Chef Hicks will be making an appearance as a contestant on a Food Network program before the end of the year.

“Cooking is my superpower,” said Chef Hicks in a press release. “It gives me the ability to change the world one dish at a time. This isn’t just a career or job for me; it’s a way of life. I really live to cook as much as I cook to live.”

“I’m looking forward to making a positive impact on the community,” said Chef Hicks. “I love to compete, teach, mentor, and create ways for us all to advance through the industry.”

Groundwork Kitchen will initially be open two to three days a week and work towards a five-day-a-week schedule.

Groundwork Kitchen will also host private events on the second floor.

Photos below courtesy of Groundwork Kitchen

General Manager Melanie Molinaro

Executive Chef Jonathan Hicks

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