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Pith and Its Young Chef Move Out of Columbia’s Dorms

“People in our office were all fascinated by this college senior who was turning entrepreneurial,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist and Columbia professor who hired Mr. Reider as a research assistant (and booked him to cater a few private dinners for friends). “It is not the turn I would have thought most of my research assistants taking.”

Now older and wiser, Mr. Reider is looking to begin his next act. Like so many recent graduates before him, Mr. Reider has moved to Brooklyn, where he has reopened Pith as private-home supper club. It is already fully booked for the month.

Brian Mommsen, 31, a hedge fund manager, invited Mr. Reider to live with him and his wife in their new three-story townhouse in the Wallabout neighborhood near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They’re like “the rich parents I never had,” Mr. Reider said. He stores his homemade tuiles in the pantry behind their microwave popcorn.

Mr. Mommsen and his wife have no children, and Mr. Mommsen hated the idea of wasting the extra space when it could support a project like Pith. Mr. Reider pays nominal rent, and the three operate the supper club cooperatively. They have designed a kitchen and dining space that would be supper-club-ready, with a top-of-the-line grill; a pizza oven and rows of herbs planted in the back garden; pottery by Lily Fein, Mr. Reider’s friend, for serving; and a suite of Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs around the large dining room table.

Photo

Morels and marrow under a nap of pasta and Pecorino.

Credit
Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

“I haven’t told most of my friends,” Mr. Mommsen said. “They think I’m nuts already.”

As well as giving a young entrepreneur a leg up, Mr. Mommsen envisions the arrangement as a way to engage with the community, and has encouraged Mr. Reider’s desire to involve the neighborhood as well as the Yelp-reviewing, fine-dining adventurers. Beginning next week, Mr. Reider will teach local middle school students to cook through the organization City Growers.

The social aspect of dining is important to Mr. Reider as well, and Pith offers the unusual and slightly chaotic promise of a table shared with strangers. Though dinner costs $95 for eight courses (with a $45 optional wine pairing), not unheard-of for New York tasting menus, Mr. Reider is firm that Pith is not a restaurant. (Whether the city health department and the State Liquor Authority licensing board agree remains to be seen, because Pith lacks the permits and liquor license required by law for commercial restaurants.)

He is careful to manage people’s expectations. “You shouldn’t come to this supper club and declare that you have allergies at the beginning,” he said. “That’s going to really mess me up.” (“Mess” was not Mr. Reider’s first choice of verb, dog.)

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