After over ten years of building one of the most successful restaurants on Nantucket, why did Orla And Michael Lascola sell American Seasons to Neil and Shelley Ferguson?
In our ever-evolving culinary landscape, there are some restaurants that we take comfort in knowing will remain the way they were when we left them back in September. For many diners, American Seasons has been one of those places. But come this April, Seasons is going to change.
This past winter, longtime owners Chef Michael and Orla Murphy Lascola sold their beloved restaurant to Chef Neil Ferguson and his wife Shelley. The Lascolas had a storybook history at the quaint spot on Centre Street. They met there twenty years ago while Orla was working as a food runner and receptionist and Michael as a 20-year-old sous chef. In 2002, Orla and Michael married and purchased the restaurant the following year. They went on to turn American Seasons into one of the most consistently delicious restaurants on the island. So why did they sell it?
Michael navigated the American Seasons menu through the last two decades and is looking forward to having an opportunity to explore his cooking outside the confines of the brand we built with our team,” said Orla Lascola. “At forty it seems like the right time to make a change.” She added, “We are both as surprised as everyone that we sold. The decision to sell was not made lightly or easily, and we certainly had our moments of doubt.”
After another successful season last summer, two buyers approached the American Seasons couple, but they weren’t interested in selling. They’d spent half of their lives pouring themselves into that restaurant, and the idea of selling it was like giving up a child. Only when Chef Neil Ferguson and his wife Shelley came into the picture did the Lascolas begin to consider the proposal. “The deciding factor was to have another local, year-round family who are committed to Nantucket take the reins and put their own spin on the restaurant,” Orla Lascola said. “We wanted to give another talented chef- owner the opportunity that we were lucky enough to have.” The Lascolas and their partners will retain ownership of the building on 80 Centre Street, while the Fergusons will become the fourth owners of American Seasons.
So what will this next generation of ownership look like? “We have a vision for American Seasons, but it’s important to remember we are inheriting an established restaurant,” says the new co-owner, Chef Neil Ferguson, who was formerly the chef de cuisine at the Galley. “We need to meet and get to know our guests, gain their confidence, and let them see it’s in safe hands, alongside learning the ins and outs of the space, before we start implementing any changes.”
One change diners can certainly count on, however, is to the menu. Chef Ferguson’s flavors will differ from Chef Lascola’s, which focused primarily on regional spins on American cuisine. Before coming to Nantucket in 2010 and eventually donning the chef coat at Galley, Ferguson ran the show in Michelin- starred restaurants alongside such culinary giants as Gordon Ramsay. Chef Ferguson doesn’t like to be pigeonholed into one style of cooking and his new menu at American Seasons will illustrate his palate-pleasing versatility. “My style of cooking is different to Michael’s but our focus on sourcing great products and showcasing them in interesting, approachable ways, is very similar,” the new Seasons chef said. “I feel my cooking framed in that location will continue to make our guests happy.”
Meanwhile, the Lascolas will be channeling their energy into their other restaurant venture on island, Proprietors, on India Street, which they opened two summers ago with Chef Tom Berry. When they will return to their old stomping ground for their first meal is yet to be seen. One thing is for certain, it’s sure to be a memorable meal.