The Top 10 Chefs You Need To Know In Nashville
In the second part of our series highlighting chefs to know in American cities ( last week we visited Atlanta), we go to a southeast powerhouse that has, perhaps unknown to American food obsessives, fielded James Beard nominees, Bon Appetit Best New Restaurants, and a unique cuisine that honors Southern tradition while slowly introducing New American and European techniques. (These days, the city’s hottest chefs are graduates of Copenhagen’s Noma.)
To anyone who thinks that this city is only good for barbecue and hot chicken (both good things, to be sure), you had better check your attitudes at the door, because Nashville is slowly but surely becoming a food destination, and these ten chefs are at the forefront of a nascent culinary renaissance.
Like all top ten lists, we admit we may have left off some deserved chefs. Is there anyone we missed? Let us know in the comments! And send your nominations for future editions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1.Josh Habinger and Erik Andersen, The Catbird Seat
Were you aware that the term "catbird seat" refers not just to the small restaurant run by
Josh Habinger and Erik Andersen, but also as the title of a 1940's play where it means "having the upper hand"? Fittingly, Habinger and Andersen are on the top of Nashville's fine dining scene, with Catbird Seat recently named to Bon Appetit's 2012 list of America's 10 Best New Restaurants. With stints at Noma, The Fat Duck, The French Laundry, and Alinea between them, the duo use haute cuisine techniques to transform the most iconic elements of Southern cooking and Nashville favorites -- for instance, an amuse bouche of fried chicken skin dusted with dill and chili powder also comes with Wonder Bread puree.
The Catbird Seat]
2.Jack Arnold, Arnold's Country Kitchen
No list of Nashville chefs would be complete without Jack Arnold (so hold your tongues, Nashville haters), who's been at the helm of the classic Arnold's Country Kitchen for 27 years. Sometimes classic, untouched Southern fare -- fried green tomatoes, roast beef, collard greens, meatloaf -- trumps all other desires, and this is The Place where visitors and locals want to go. "It's all good, all simple, all Southern,"
says food writer John T. Edge about the cantankerous chef. "Indeed, I would go so far as to posit that Arnold's is among the best two or three plate lunch places in Nashville, which makes it among the best in the South."
Address: 605 8th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: (615) 256-4455
3.Jeremy Barlow, Tayst
Though he made his name as the chef and owner of Tayst, and was invited to cook at the James Beard House, Jeremy Barlow recently announced that he was shutting down his fine dining restaurant at the end of this year. Barlow, who also runs the casual Sandwich shop Sloco,
told the that he wanted more time to devote to his family -- and not in the way a disgraced politician might say it. "I want to see my kids’ soccer games, have board game nights and watch movies, and I need more than one very sleepy night a week to do that.” Before he does, though, he'll be serving his environmentally friendly cuisine at the James Beard Foundation's Leadership Awards later this month.
4.Josh Feathers, Blackberry Farms
Technically, the Blackberry Farm is three hours outside of Nashville (in fact, it's much closer to Knoxville.) But we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight Josh Feathers' work at the James Beard Award-winning resort where he prepares and preserves food harvested straight from the farm. (It's so good, in fact, that he, at the behest of the Beard Foundation, hosted a
bevy of chefs for an entire weekend.)
5.Margot McCormack, Margot Cafe and Bar
One of the first chefs to open an acclaimed restaurant in the then-struggling East Nashville, Margot McCormack not only transformed the neighborhood into a thriving hipster mecca with her self-named cafe and bar serving high-quality Mediterranean cuisine, but she also mentored chefs like Tandy Wilson while she was head chef at F. Scott. Nominated for a James Beard award in 2009, McCormack singlehandedly changed the Nashville dining scene from one that centered on meat and potatoes when she opened up her restaurant a decade ago. "I didn't want to be pigeonholed or fenced in or held to some sort of bizarre standard created by the Cheesecake Factory or Houston's,"
she told Anna Watson Carl in an interview. "I just wanted to have my own thing."
6.Patrick Martin, Martin's BBQ Joint
Formerly a bonds trader who made a serious career switch, Patrick Martin's pit mastery grew so famous that he soon became the first Tennessean invited to the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, along with the likes of Myron Mixon. How he became so acclaimed: things like the Redneck Taco. "I don’t like the slur, but I love the sandwich,"
says . "Take an oversize hoecake. Pile it high with threads of hickory-smoked whole hog. Gild the whole of it with slaw and sauce. Rake in the acclaim." We will forgo our elitism if it means that we can eat this all day.
Garden and Gun
Martin's BBQ Joint]
7.Scott Witherow, Olive + Sinclair
No one really thinks about Nashville being a city with high-quality chocolate, but
Scott Witherow's Olive + Sinclair takes high-quality chocolate beans sourced from all over the world and puts a unique Southern spin on them: imagine chocolate ground like grits, sweetened with brown sugar, and flavored with hickory smoke, buttermilk, and bourbon. "It's stinking awesome," he told CHOW in an interview. "I'm no distiller, but to me, [chocolate] enhances the flavor of the actual bourbon."
Olive & Sinclair]
8.Tandy Wilson, City House
Tandy Wilson famously fed victims of Tennessee's devastating 2010 floods, but in better times, the chef of City House serves fare inspired by Italian and Southern cuisine that's grabbed the country's notice: he's been nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the South three years in a row. “Ask ten locals to name their favorite restaurant,"
, singing praises about the belly-ham pizza, "and seven will answer City House." (A more prosaic measure of his culinary skill: the Bon Appetit confirms time he evangelized beets to a local woman.)
9.Tyler Brown, Capitol Grille
First of all,
Tyler Brown at the Capitol Grille (formerly helmed by Sean Brock) has a phenomenal moustache. Second of all, he's a James Beard nominee who grows his produce on the nearby 66-acre Glen Leven farm, insisting on local and heirloom varieties in all of his dishes. Back in 2011, Esquire's John Mariani named him one of the the chefs to watch in 2011, for showing "how far southern cooking has come without losing what made it great in the first place." What's also great: that moustache. Seriously, it looks like it's very decisive and secure in its sense of direction.
The Capitol Grille]