He might also be the only first-time restauranteur to also own a herd of close to 400 water buffalo.
Morsey's Farmhouse Kitchen is set to open at 134 Main St. in early January, with friends and family events planned for later this month. Kal, who is from Egypt, and his wife Yulia, from Russia, hope to educate American diners on the merits of water-buffalo products, which are more popular and known in South Asian and European countries.
The couple started with seven water buffalo they purchased from a breeder in Texas. They have since grown the herd, which lives on a farm just south of Sacramento, to about 375 water buffalo. They expect there to be more as calves are born, Yulia said.
A row of feeding water buffalo at the Kal and Yulia Morsey's farm in Wilton. Photo courtesy Morsey's.
Though there are a scattering of water-buffalo farms in the Bay Area, none are of that size, according to Kal, and they mostly supply restaurants with mozzarella di bufala cheese or gelato, he said.
Morsey's, on the other hand, will serve milk, different kinds of cheeses, butter, yogurt and gelato and use the products in the kitchen. The owners started selling their products at the downtown Palo Alto and Portola Valley farmers markets earlier this year.
Though water-buffalo milk has twice the fat content of cow's milk, it has more protein, calcium and iron and less cholesterol. Even Yulia's daughter, who she described as severely lactose intolerant, can eat products made from water-buffalo milk.
At the restaurant, products like milk, cheese and yogurt as well as items like sandwiches and salads will be available for purchase in a retail case. (The Morsey's also plan to sell the products at local grocery stores.) Customers will also be able to stop in just for gelato or frozen yogurt. There will also be pastries and coffee.
The restaurant will offer counter-service breakfast and lunch, but full dinner service. An early menu shows items like vitello tonnato — an Italian dish of cold, sliced veal topped with a tuna sauce — and ratatouille with mozzarella di bufala. There will also dishes like pancakes and pizza made with water-buffalo products.
Morsey's Executive Chef Tim Uttaro described the food as "European inspired" California cuisine.
Uttaro, a native of Carmel, previously worked at the now-shuttered Sent Sovi in Saratoga (which the famed David Kinch of Manresa opened in the 1990s), British Banker's Club in Menlo Park, the Stanford Park Hotel and Lemonade in Burlingame.
The team is putting the finishing touches on the Main Street space, which formerly housed Main Street Cafe. The front of the 3,500-square-foot restaurant will be dedicated to grab-and-go items, a coffee bar, pastry case and casual "lounge" area for people to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Banquettes that stretch to the back of the restaurant offer seating for full-service meals.
Morsey's Farmhouse Kitchen on Main Street is nearing opening. Photo by Elena Kadvany.
The gelato display case is imported from Italy, as is all of the furniture, according to Kevin Lanigan, a former hotel manager who is helping the Morsey's open their venture.
There will also be outdoor seating along Main Street and, if approved by the city, an outdoor fire pit.
Once Morsey's is open, Lanigan said he anticipates battling the question: "Is this an ice cream shop or a full-service restaurant?"
The overarching intent, he said, "is to showcase everything water buffalos do."