Arjav Ezekiel & Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel, co-owners of Food & Wine’s 2023 Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year Birdie’s, seem to be in the early conceptual stages of an upcoming establishment.
“We’re excited to keep playing around with new ideas and keeping an eye out for a space that aligns with our approach to food and service,” a representative for Mr. Ezekiel told Eater Austin.
Only slightly adding detail to the mystery, Eater paraphrased Mrs. Malechek-Ezekiel reporting that “the pop-ups — the Italian Aiello’s and the French one— offer ways for them and the staff to play around food-wise.”
Apart from Birdie’s stellar Italian-influenced menu & carefully selected wine list, Food & Wine enthuses about the owners’ relationships with their workers.
“Regardless if you are a dishwasher or a cook or a front-of-house person, everyone is tipped out the same amount, prorated according to the number of hours they worked that week,” Food & Wine articulates.
On top of this highly democratic distribution of gratuity, the restaurant offers paid time off for their workers when it closes for two weeks in August and two weeks over the winter holidays.
“I think that’s a really fun one because coming up in restaurants, the only time you could take a vacation really was whenever you left a job before you went to your next job,” Mrs. Malechek-Ezekiel told the publication.
“The mental health of the team is also a top priority for the couple,” the report continues. “In addition to offering subsidized mental health care through the Mike & Sherry Project (an Austin-based organization that provides counseling for hospitality workers) for their team members, Arjav and Tracy will sometimes make the decision to just close the restaurant and give everyone an extra day of rest if they need it.”
“Staff members at Birdie’s also receive health insurance after working for 60 days. (Birdie’s covers 50% of their premium.) Most recently, after having their son, Remy, last fall, the couple found a way to institute paid family leave of two months for their employees — a rarity in the industry and something the couple hopes more restaurants will implement.”
No further detail about the upcoming concept has been announced.