CHESTER — “Cooking the food and making it absolutely taste outstanding, I don’t stop there. It’s so gratifying to see a waitress drop the food off at a table and see the customer immediately smile even before they’ve eaten the food. That is what I want the experience to be, said David Saunders, chef of Marker 37, a restaurant under construction on Railroad Ave. at Chester Marina.
Saunders, who has been the chef of Saybrook Soup and Sandwich Co. since 2010, said his new venture, named for its location on the Connecticut RIver, will feature a “contemporary aquatic” menu with a raw bar. He said the setting of the indoor-outdoor restaurant is part of the inspiration for the food.
“The view is stunning, it is nothing but stunning. To the left is a canal, in front of you is the Connecticut River and to the right the beautiful marina — so there’s your ‘aquatic,’” he said. “And for the ‘contemporary,’ I love presentation. I have such a massive passion for vibrant food and I love colors.”
The menu will include a variety of flatbreads— for example, a blackened white pearl shrimp served with an opal basil goat cheese, shiitake mushroom and heirloom tomato.
The beef burgers and steaks will be USDA prime, rather than choice, he said.
“We’re going to have a tenderloin brochette, which is going to be marinated in olive oil and garlic with a soy, sesame, tupelo honey glaze. Vegetables will be basic — yellow bell pepper, bermuda onion, mushrooms,” he said.
Appetizers will include a brushed and toasted sirloin crostini made with shaved sirloin with baby spinach aioli, pickled red onion and shaved asiago cheese served over microgreens.
“For soups we are thinking about doing a New England clam chowder with silver corn, jalapenos and smoked bacon. Another one is a roasted pumpkin, butternut squash and Saigon cinnamon bisque and that’s going to have a gala apple salsa, which has distinctive sour and sweet notes,” he said.
Desserts will include hot sundaes served in a non-traditional way.
“I don’t want to serve in one of those glass jars with a little whipped cream on it. [Instead] I’m going to deep fry some homemade crepes and push them the middle with a ladle so makes a bowl and then dip it in half white and half dark chocolate and then fill it with Haagen Daz vanilla bean ice cream and then the best chocolate fudge on the planet,” he said.
A seasonal herb garden on the premises will add fresh flavors each dish, he said.
“There’s really nothing better than for you to be able to go out and pick fresh mint at four o’clock in the afternoon and when you put it on a dessert an hour and a half later, the contours of the leaves and the aromatics of the leaves is brilliant — it is impossible to reproduce, you can’t buy things like that, so we’re’ really going to pride ourselves on that as well,” he said.
Saunders, who grew up in Old Lyme, said he inherited his love for cooking from his mother, Nancy Dill Saunders, who owned and operated a catering business. He began to work in restaurants at age 16 and landed his first professional job at 18 in the garde manger of Isla Del Sol in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I bypassed culinary school,” he said. “I’ve had great teachers, I’ve had some of the best of the best of the best of the best, yet at a certain time you yourself have to become your best teacher — you’ve got to start being original and coming up with dishes on your own and that’s a whole other avenue that you have to take.”
Saunders said he will continue to cater events from the new location.
“Catering is my strong point. I’ve done over 420 weddings and over 3,000 events. I’ve done parties from 6 up to 3,400 for tableside dining,” he said.
From preparation to presentation to flavor, he said every aspect of food continues to motivate him.
“I just absolutely love to eat and I just love food. I probably spent too much money on food, but I’m okay with that. I absolutely adore it. I like food shopping. I like thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner, “ he said. “And I absolutely love to eat — it is my favorite thing in the world, it truly, truly is.”
Marker 37 will open at a date to be determined in 2021.