Teach Me How to Startup

The Chef from Lure Fish Bar, a Techie Power Lunch Spot, Now Has His Own Startup

"Now they throw some words at me like, ‘Hey, Capon, you want in on the next IPO?’”

Lure Dining Room Edits-11

If you’re looking to fact-check whether Lure Fishbar is indeed the “the Michael’s of downtown,” as one publicist recently told Betabeat, you could do worse than the Soho hangout’s Foursquare page. There, you’ll find tips from Reuters’s Felix Salmon, ex-Googler Caroline McCarthy and even defoundered Foursquare exec Naveen Selvadurai, who recommends Lure’s private side room for meetings—and the lobster tail.

“There’s some big heavy deals going on around here,” said executive chef Josh Capon, a burly guy with a gravely Rockland County accent and a fondness for using the phrase “I don’t mean to disrespect myself,” before doing just that.

“Every now and then,” he continued, “I’m like, ‘Hey guys, can somebody please cut me in? Can I get a half a point on whatever deal you’re closing in my restaurant?’ They all kind of look at me and laugh, and I’m like, ‘No seriously, gimme a freaking half a point! What the hell is going on here?’”

We didn’t spot any term sheets on the table during a light lunch in Lure’s nautical-themed dining room last Friday, but we did count three self-effacing hoodies in the crowd.

Lure has long been a favorite of Gawker Media stalwarts, as well as Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer. “Ken sits over there and holds court,” Mr. Capon said, gesturing to a booth in the back. “Ben [Lerer, cofounder of Thrillist] is always complaining that he can’t get his dad’s table.” But over the past five or six years, the lunch crowd has come to reflect Soho office rentals, with plenty of startup types table-hopping amid the media mavens and hedge fund traders.

“The more I stuck around and the more I listened, I started to pick up on it,” he said of the tech jargon wafting about. “They get a kick out of me. Now they throw some words at me like, ‘Hey, Capon, you want in on the next IPO?’”

Last month, Mr. Capon, who also runs Burger & Barrel and El Toro Blanco, and his college buddy Jason King dipped a toe in the tech world themselves with a new venture called Dining Image. The startup helps restaurants create their own website, take reservations with OpenTable and manage email with clientele. Mr. King already runs a similar company, Studioality, which offers a high-end version of the same service for clients like David BurkeKeith McNally and Drew Nieporent. At $100 per month, however, Dining Image targets restaurateurs with more meager budgets.

Silicon Alley regulars will recall that Dining Image has some local competition, like SinglePlatformWiley Cerilli’s startup, which was acquired by the small business marketing corporation Constant Contact for $100 million last June. There is also the option of just launching a Tumblr, which is what Lure uses.

That was owner John McDonald’s decision, Mr. Capon said last Friday as we tucked into caviar-topped deviled eggs (he recommended using Lure’s homemade potato chips as a scooping vehicle). “To me, it’s not a restaurant website,” he said of the more blog-like approach, calling Tumblr “much more of a New York thing.” Mr. Capon should know. “I’ve been in this space 14 years!” he said incredulously. “Do you know chef years? That’s like dog years or tree years,” he elaborated.

Mr. King told Betabeat that he used Chef Capon as a beta tester during the yearlong development process for Dining Image. He wanted to offer the bells and whistles of Studioality but in a more manageable interface. “We understand that chefs are working in the back of the kitchen on a computer that is probably running IE 7 and they’re not really up to date with all the technology.”

In fact, Dining Image’s promotional video, which features a guest appearance from TV personality and top chef John Besh, depicts Mr. Capon building a website in the time it takes him to eat a Lure burger. “It shows me, no disrepect to myself, as a mooky chef,” he said.

What does mooky mean, we asked, unfamiliar with the term. “Meaning I’m not a tech-world guy,” Mr. Capon said with a laugh. “I’m not the sharpest stone in the shed or whatever they say. I failed accounting twice in Maryland, but I made my way to culinary school and I do very well for myself. Jason [King] watches me type sometimes on my computer and he’s like, ‘Are you serious?’ I’m like, ‘Listen, I get it done, guy. You want a nice dinner? I can make you a really nice dinner.’”

“We all have our strengths and weaknesses,” he added before settling on a one-word definition for mooky: “Caveman-esque.”

A version of this story was published in the April 3, 2013 edition of The New York Observer.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com