Commonwealth, a cool new kid on the Mission's avant garde dining block, wants its food to be artful yet approachable and its business profitable yet charitable. Being longtime friends helps the new business partners maintain a special bond that makes working together seem like the furthest thing from work.
Name: Anthony Myint, 32
Hails from: Outside of D.C.
Role: Partner. "Right now I'm kind of an errand boy-slash-crazy uncle. I'm not suave enough to be at the front of the house and if I were in the kitchen, there would be too many cooks...in the kitchen."
Why is Commonwealth charitable? Some people are doctors or teachers and what they do is intrinsically for social good and you don't get that in every industry, especially the luxury industry. It's easy to become jaded and say, 'Oh, I'm giving massages to rich people for $200 an hour,' but why not just charge them $250 and feed 200 people in that hour. It's a change for charitable arbitrage in a way.
Off-hours: "Somehow or another, working takes up all my time. If I had free time, it's engaging enough to be working that I would probably start something that created more work. My wife and I recently remarked that we don't even know what to do for fun anymore."
Name: Jason Fox, 37
Hails from: Marlboro, NJ
Role: Executive Chef, Partner. "The fun stuff is working on new recipes, making sure the kitchen runs smoothly, helping with prep and production, and expediting daily. The not so fun stuff is paying bills, and talking to insurance people, accountants, and lawyers."
Why is the team so united? We've all worked together before and we actually like each other. We all have the same vision of what the restaurant should be.
Off-hours: "In all of those off hours, I spend as much time as I can with the wife and kid. Otherwise...sleep! I don't get to cook much at home but I like to cook vegetables for my daughter."
Name: Xelina Leyba, 28
Hails from: San Diego, CA
Role: General Manager, Partner. "My role is to translate Jason's menu and the whole concept to our guests. I work to get everyone knowledgeable about our philosophy. There's a lot of detail that goes into our product, and I try to figure out ways to condense that into something palatable for our guests."
What question do you get a lot? "People always ask about our byline, 'a progressive American restaurant' and what that means. In terms of being progressive, we want our food to be innovative and creative and make the business side to be charitable, and we see what we're trying to offer in this specific setting as unique."
Off-hours: "We work a lot, so sometimes after work we grab drinks nearby at Uptown, 500 Club or maybe Bar Agricole for something more elegant.
Name: Ian Muntzert, 30
Hails from: Fairbanks, AK
Role: Chef de Cuisine, Partner. "I'm second in command in the kitchen. I make sure the day to day service goes well and pastry is largely my concern. Jason and I have worked together for a long time and even when we met, we had similar styles and things we look for in food. We understand each other's strengths and weaknesses that happen to compliment each other really well."
"I'm here about 90 hours a week, so I try to sleep and also hang out with my girlfriend. I do laundry and try to eat a decent meal each week. There's not much I can do at this stage of the restaurant. Maybe in a year I'll have some more constructive downtime."
Name: Sarah Elliot, 29
Hails from: Los Gatos, CA
Role: Wine and Beverage Director, Assistant GM, Partner. "You might find me bartending or serving on any given night, but my main focus is on the wine program. Right now I'm obsessed with German and Austrian wines, specifically reds. I think amazing wine comes from all over, but right now it's my favorite region for earthy, food-friendly reds with restrained fruit."
Off-hours: "I'm really into plants. And wine. And I'm here a LOT. I love coming to work. And that's about it."