Chef Tom Colicchio is changing the name of his Manhattan restaurant after learning of its ties to racist theories of the Victorian era. The former Fowler & Wells is now Temple Court.
The New York Times reports that Fowler & Wells, which opened last October, was named after a nineteenth-century publishing company and educational institute that once operated on the same site in the financial district. Its building was torn down and replaced by Temple Court. The men who started the company, Edward Fowler and Samuel Wells, were advocates for phrenology, a belief, common in the 1800s, that the shape of a person’s skull indicated intelligence levels and personality traits. This pseudoscientific study was often used to justify slavery and the inferior treatment of African Americans.
Colicchio told the paper that the name change has been in the works for quite some time, but was slowed by the expenses of rebranding — Colicchio has spent between $50,000 and $100,000 on the change — and the need to clear the decision with all of the restaurant’s partners, including the building’s developers.
Colicchio — who is a strong advocate for social justice on Twitter, often tweeting criticism of Donald Trump — told The New York Times that when he and his team were developing ideas for a name, they only vaguely understood phrenology and its “nefarious” connotation.
“I don’t think it was a bad idea to start with because we didn’t have any of the information we have now,” he added. “I have a fairly liberal persona and never in a million years would consider myself a racist, so it never crossed my mind.”
Colicchio — one of The Daily Meal’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2017 — has frequently used his considerable influence to support charitable causes, including organizations that combat hunger and food waste in America.