NEW ASHFORD — A winner of the Top Chef Amateurs cooking show and her husband are transforming the former Mill on the Floss restaurant into a community culinary space.
Farah Momen and her husband, Matthew Trisic, created “Bondu” and will host supper clubs, private dinners, cooking classes, corporate events and weddings at the former restaurant at 342 Route 7. Their first supper club event will be at 6 p.m. Saturday. A multi-course murder mystery show is on October 28.
A supper club is a restaurant that also functions as a social gathering. The menu is limited and often includes homemade dishes. Momen describes Saturday’s event as an “elevated dinner” that the public can attend by purchasing a ticket.
It will include a seven-course meal that tells a story about her family’s history, with ingredients that reflect her heritage in Bangladesh. The word bondhu means “friend” in Bengali, the main language spoken in Bangladesh.
On its LinkedIn page, Momen describes Bondhu as “a hospitality company whose social mission is to foster reflection, dialogue and connectedness through food at individual and community levels.”
“It’s a space that I hope to share with the Berkshires community,” Momen said. She is co-founder of Now Exchange, which facilitates access to health information, discussions and resources for women and girls in Bangladesh.
Originally from the New York area, Momen attended college in Montreal and worked in technology in Toronto and Boston before arriving in the Berkshires this spring.
“I was an entrepreneurship advisor,” she said. “Entrepreneurship has always been a passion of mine. As I worked with them to help them achieve their dreams, as any entrepreneur will tell you, I had a nagging feeling that I wanted to do it myself.”
The couple bought the former Mill on the Floss from Jane Champagne, owner of the fine-dining establishment since 1973. They paid $520,000 for the property in April.
Jane and her husband, Maurice, a classically trained French chef, had worked for Le Moulin and Le Floss for 21 years before buying the property, after helping to establish it as a fine dining destination in the early 1960s. the Floss closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Mill on the Floss opened in 1938 as a seasonal tavern in a 19th century colonial farmhouse. Momen is aware of the tradition of the restaurant.
“I took a space that was cherished by the community,” she said. “A lot of people have told me what it means to them.”
Momen appeared last year on the first season of Top Chef Amateurs, a spin-off of reality TV show Top Chef, shortly after graduating with a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Tufts University. Her occupation is listed as “recently graduated student” on the show’s website. The show, which aired on Bravo, was filmed in Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2020 and aired in July 2021. It beat out six contestants to win the title.
“I was graduating just as COVID hit and was looking to apply for jobs online when I came across the casting call,” she said. “It was an incredible experience.
“I think for me, this whole experience was a validation of what it takes to cook at this level,” she said. “I didn’t go to cooking school.
“It was on the plane back from filming that I decided to do this,” she said of opening a venue like Bondhu.
Momen believes that a community culinary space will suit a rural area better than a city.
“A lot of cities are saturated with food companies,” she laments. “I haven’t spent a lot of time here, but in many ways I feel like I’m where I grew up.”
Momen and Trisic live on the second floor of the site and run their community culinary space downstairs where the restaurant used to be. The couple list their accommodations on Airbnb as a “lush, bohemian, foodie Berkshire paradise”.
So far, they’ve spent about $20,000 on renovations and made the dining room “a bit more modern,” she said.
“It’s ongoing,” Momen said of the renovations. “We keep things to a minimum.”