Tim Emery has been in the restaurant business since he was 13.
He’s been a busboy, a line cook and a chef. He’s opened hundreds of restaurants working for a chain.
“I’ve been cooking almost my whole life. I’ve cooked every cuisine you could think of,” said Emery, 36, a native of Binghamton, N.Y. “I have a vast love for the industry, the chaoticness.”
In August, he’ll do something he’s never done — open his own place, and work in his own kitchen.
“I was always making someone else money,” he said. “It was time I stopped doing that.”
Infuzed Bistro will open on a Thursday, Aug. 15, in Brackenridge, next to Prospect Cemetery in the former Chalkboard Cafe location.
Partners with Emery in the endeavor are his wife, Toni, and friend, Chris Carabotta. Tim Emery says they support him, but also help keep him in-check.
Carabotta, 22, a native of Austinburg, Ohio who now lives in Charleroi, met Emery as a dishwasher. Tim Emery made him a sous chef before they became business partners in Infuzed.
Tim Emery and Carabotta will be working in the kitchen; Toni Emery, whose experience is as a day-care provider, will run the front of the house. They have four servers and a dishwasher and are looking for another cook.
Tim Emery’s work has taken him to more than a dozen states.
“I never wanted to stay in one place,” he said. “I wanted to learn as much as I could in different styles.”
Tim Emery said they came upon the closed restaurant in Brackenridge by chance on Craigslist. They had been considering places in Homestead and Upper St. Clair.
They arranged to see the building, arrived early and looked around the area. They noticed tons of fast food and pizza joints, but nothing like what they want to do.
They saw a gap.
“There was no bistro, a place to eat from scratch,” Tim Emery said.
The moment he got inside the doors of the house-turned-insurance agency-turned-restaurant, Tim Emery said he knew they had found the right place.
“I just started seeing potential through every room,” he said. “I instantly fell in love. We feel we got lucky.”
The building had been left as if the Chalkboard had been running just the day before.
They’ve remodeled the interior, doing all the work themselves.
The Emerys are living above the restaurant for the time being. The couple has six children — five sons and a daughter, ranging in age from 3 to 13.
They moved to Brackenridge from Bentleyville, Washington County. Shortly after arriving, they got a rude welcome to the neighborhood when someone dumped a large wooden table top at their dumpster.
Undeterred, they took it, fixed it up and turned it into an eight-top for the restaurant, which features that recycled, repurposed vibe where not everything is new and not everything matches.
Emery describes their concept as American-modern style food — like home cooking, but with technique and flavor from other cuisines, such as a New York strip with Cajun and Japanese seasonings in the dry rub.
“There is no straight line for what we’re doing here,” he said. “Eating here will be an experience you’re not going to get somewhere else.”
Calling it a “little 50-seater,” Infuzed will be open for lunch and dinner.
The short menu will change seasonally.
The most expensive item, a steak, will top out at $25.
“You’re going to feel like you’re at a place where you’re paying $100 a plate, but you’re not,” Tim Emery said.
They’ll offer a $10 lunch with $2 sides. Customers will choose a flavor profile or “package” — such as shaved New York strip, chicken breast or duck breast — then how it’s “delivered” — as a sub, salad, wrap or pasta.
“We designed it so that you can get in, get out and get back to work without feeling rushed,” Carabotta said.
They’ll be happy to take ideas for what to serve from customers.
“We want people to tell us what they want to see on the menu,” Tim Emery said. “I love being challenged.”
They won’t have a liquor license, so Infuzed will be “BYOB.”
They plan on being part of the community, including donating a portion of their profits to community groups and organizations.
Their first week will support Highlands Youth Wrestling; Rams Youth Football will be the beneficiary in the second.
“We’re very much about helping good programs,” Tim Emery said. “As long as it’s a good cause, we’re always willing to help.”