85 S King Street,
Jackson Hole, WY 83001
Wednesday through Sunday 5pm to 9pm
Coelette is our restaurant as home, our guests as family and friends.
A journey onto itself, Coelette is the capstone of all that Persephone’s husband and wife owners Kevin and Ali Cohane have learned and loved about curating a trio of cafes in the valley. Building on the history of the Coe Cabin, they set out to create a space dedicated to place where Executive Chef Partner Ben Westenburg can guide you on an exploration of snow-line cuisines. By sourcing ingredients locally and specializing in techniques honed in the world’s mountain regions, Coelette channels a naturalist approach to food. Dishes are simply prepared with specialized techniques spotlighting the flavors rooted in our region. All of our ingredients are sourced through close relationships with farmers and producers, with featured items grown specially for Coellete. Time, care and technique are key elements of the Coelette menu and ethos. As are revived traditions; Old-World recipes invented at high elevations are brought to life in a creative way.
The interiors of Coelette were a collaboration between owner Ali Cohane, architects Nona Yehia of GYDE architects, and interior designers John Frechette and Christian Burch of MADE and Mountain Dandy. Here John and Christian share a bit about their inspiration.
Coelette is your first soup-to-nuts interior design project. What compelled you to tackle such an ambitious project? What have you learned—beyond the volumes your MADE/Mountain Dandy group has already taught you?
We usually don't take on design projects, but we've always thought that if we did, it would be for a restaurant, hotel, or bar. When Kevin and Ali approached us, we thought that it would be a perfect fit. We've always loved what they have done in terms of their businesses in town, and we feel like we align very well... in design and in running locally owned small businesses. We really learned a lot about the process of opening up a restaurant as compared to a shop. There's a much longer turnaround and many more people involved... and with more people involved, there are more instances where the design changes over time due to restaurant requirements or actual impossibilities, etc. ...so we learned to adapt and to change with the building.
Over the years, you have advised Ali Cohane on aspects of several interiors, both personal and professional (such as the salon-style picture wall at Persephone West). When working with someone you know so well, how do you balance project client and end consumer? Or, considered differently, knowing Ali so well, how do you imagine the character/aesthetics of the Coelette customer?
I think it works because we know each other so well. We traveled with Ali before the very first Persephone opened in order to scout lighting and fixtures, and I think being a small part of the conversation from the beginning made for a solid team. We quickly fell into a rhythm of throwing out ideas in a fun way that didn't involve egos or hurt feelings if an idea was shot down. The brainstorming and dreaming portion has always been like a creative roundtable.
How would you describe the synergy between the Persephone group and your own quartet of retail businesses (MADE, Mountain Dandy, Mursell’s Sweet Shop, M)?
I look at our businesses as very parallel to a certain time period in Jackson. We were all ten years younger, and there was an opportunity for new small businesses to pop up because of the market downturn. We opened at nearly the same time, and John and I felt that right away we had a support system because we could ask them questions about owning a business, and they could ask us questions....and most importantly, opening up a business is a lot of work and time, and we had friends who could relate to that very easily....and not just Kevin and Ali, but other restaurant and business owners in town who opened up during that time. It really ushered in a nice time Jackson. When I first moved here, there were many larger brand outlets and shops on the square...Gap, J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, Benetton....and then following that Jackson has become a town that ...for as small as it is...has a good number of locally owned and operated businesses that the community really embraces and supports. It is a great town to be a small business owner.
What were some (other) points of inspiration? Literary and such?
At our very first meeting, Nona from GYDE architects, had us sit down and each list five people, living or dead, who we would like to envision eating at Coelette. The list included everyone from David Hockney, Billie Holiday, and Ernest Hemingway to Lenny Kravitz, Ben Soleimani and Joan Jett. It was really a fun way to begin the process because in reality, the customer at Coelette could be visiting family from Utah or even at this point, a member of Motley Crue.
Even before Covid, interior design had become as much the realm of Instagram as IRL. Did you design with such visual consumption in mind? And how do you design to transcend instant gratification—to encourage people to stay and fully experience place?
That's a difficult question because when I'm in a restaurant that directly addresses the idea of social media snapshots, it turns me off. I don't like to be directed as to what to enjoy. It's like a movie ending and then explaining the plot as if the audience is too dense to understand. I see the importance of social media, but I think that by creating a space that provides a whole experience that offers customers to enjoy it IRL or on Instagram rather than be directed.
What are some of your favorite finds or vignettes?
My favorite find is the cherub that sits above the bar. We quickly dubbed it the Patron Saint of Coelette. It is an old Macy's window display, but it will welcome people into the bar. It just has an old school New York feel to it... like the 21 Club or The King Cole Bar that I think is a nice juxtaposition with the historic Coe Cabin. We also love the owl, which is a sign of welcome into a home... and the Zeus sculpture that sits in the dining room. Zeus is actually the father of Persephone.
How is designing a concept restaurant different from approaching a retail space or a personal residence?
It's not as different as you would think. There are codes to consider, but other than that... in terms of design, a wonderful restaurant is like a home. It's where birthdays, family gatherings, and special events in people's lives happen, so to have a feeling like you are home...without having your bills piled up on a desk or your children's legos on the floor... adds to the special experience.
What impact do you imagine Covid will have on customers’ relationship to interior space?
I think that this is a difficult time in our country where people are feeling isolated, worried, and maybe even a little hopeless in general. Historically, the period after these times are more joyful and centered around social togetherness... the roaring twenties after WWI, the boom after WW2, and the 70s scene after Vietnam. I hope that we are at the edge of one of these times where being in an establishment and celebrating togetherness is the focus. I would love to see the customer in Coelette come in for a wonderful meal, a cocktail, and enjoy the surroundings fully... maybe take a quick snap for their social media as that is now our culture...but really settle in and enjoy the whole experience... the food, the drink, the company, the music... and I hope that the interior sets that mood and plays as a backdrop to all of that.