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Gracie’s founder Ellen Slattery looks to bridge the divide between special-occasion and casual fare

GRACIE’S: Gracie’s Ventures Inc.
 
Gracie’s Ventures Inc. will have plenty to celebrate on New Year’s Eve, including a milestone not many restaurants can tout – a 20th anniversary. At the helm since its opening in 1998 on Federal Hill in Providence, Ellen Slattery has steadily built the brand while also mentoring the next generation at her alma mater, Johnson & Wales University.
 
“When there is passion involved, in some way, shape or form, you’ll be successful,” said the 46-year old mother of three of the ethos at Gracie’s.
 
In late November, Slattery announced the addition of Ellie’s a French bistro-style neighborhood eatery on Weybosset Street in the capital.  By adding the cafe to her two existing eateries–the 72-seat Gracie’s and the 6-year old breakfast/lunch/catering spot Ellie’s Bakery–Slattery hit almost every appetite style and craving out there.
 
In a way, she says, the new location will allow her the freedom to run three separate, yet similarly focused, operations without having to choose between white tablecloths and a casual hangout.
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What’s your first food memory?
My first memory of food, when I was a kid, was that I ate crummy.  I ate mac and cheese and Oscar Meyer hot dogs and SpaghettiOs, peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese.
 
Are there any foods you don’t like?
There isn’t much that I don’t like.  There was one time we were doing a tasting menu and I was served brain.  I wanted to try it [but] I just couldn’t get over the texture.  I feel like, if prepared properly, anything can be delicious.
 
Did your childhood in New Jersey–and the state’s relationship to the food industry– help steer you in the direction of a culinary career?
 
 
 Gracie’s Ventures Inc. is a member of Chefs Feeding Kids–our non-profit charitable organization.