For the past several months rumors around Little Rock have been swirling about former Ashley’s chef Lee Richardson taking over the kitchen in the River Market at Cache.
While we are all waiting patiently to see Chef Richardson in the kitchen on a regular basis, the move to bring Richardson in is actually a part of a larger collaboration effort by the restaurant. This is not a move to bring in a new chef to take over the kitchen like many rumors ran without checking would have you believe.
Rush Harding opened Cache in early 2014 with his son Payne Harding and Matt Cooper heading the kitchen. Payne Harding, at the time, was a recent graduate from the Culinary Institute of America. Cooper, who later left at the end of 2014 to open a new restaurant in Bentonville, in many ways served as this first collaboration.
“Payne did not have the opportunities to study under a wide variety of top chefs like many others in a space like this,” Jacquelyn Pittman, director of operations for RH Cuisine (Cache’s parent restaurant group), tells us. “So instead of sending him out in the world for several years, we felt that the restaurant as a whole can benefit from bringing top chefs in to collaborate. That way the entire culinary staff benefits from their expertise.”
The collaboration between Chef Harding and Chef Richardson began around a dinner donated at a live auction from the Hardings to Easter Seals’ Arkansan of the Year event. In the weeks leading up to the dinner Richardson was often seen in the Cache kitchen with Harding preparing and making plans for the dinner, further fueling rumors.
“We loved working with Chef Richardson and future collaborations are in the works,” Pittman tells us. “In fact we want to step up collaborations all around in the future. We are already looking at different chefs to bring in and work with. It also gives Chef Harding a chance to experiment more with some passions that he has to integrate those into classic concepts.”
So while we will certainly not see Chef Richardson inside the Cache kitchen full-time, or any other kitchen for that matter as we reported in an interview with Richardson in February. There is no “Cache-ing in“, but there is a large quiet effort to make the most visible restaurant in Little Rock increasingly better with each one of these collaboration efforts with both Chef Richardson and possibly others. While I love Chef Richardson’s food, I am more than happy to see him continue to influence young culinary minds like Chef Harding who are going to be around the city for years to come.