Forrest Parker was recently the Executive Chef at Gaylord Opryland, the 17th largest resort and convention center in the world. As Executive Chef, Parker created…
Charleston, Chef, Lowcountry, South Carolina
I wanted to congratulate you on your Nashville piece. Having lived and worked here (at Louis's in the 90's and now OVPH) and in Nashville (Exec. Chef at Opryland) I can say I have truly seen both sides of the coin, so to speak.
The music scene in Nashville far outstrips the scene here. Even with the presence of Spoleto, Band of Horses and Southern Ground, there just does not seem to be much happening ever. When I lived here 15 years ago, I remember seeing John Spencer Blues Explosion, Tricky, Satchel; a fair amount of things. Not so now, and I'll grant Nashville the edge there, what with Third Man, Robert Plant, great venues like Station Inn, Mercy Lounge, War Memorial and the Ryman. We have the Music Farm and the Pour House.
Nashville has more met & three's than we do, and they're awesome. There are a surprising amount of diverse options (Laotion, Ethiopean, Vietnamese, Dim Sum, Shawarma, papuserias) and some real stand outs (Capital Grill, City House were always favorites.) The food truck scene has blown up in East Nasty in particular, and the two guys that (also came down from Minneapolis and the kitchen of Doug Flicker) opened Catbird Seat above Patterson House do seem to have something special going on. Everyone's all abuzz about the new Husk, but the space Sean's going into previously housed Andrew Chadwick's on Rutledge Hill and folded within months. This was a restaurant of national caliber, people. That said, the seasonal grass roots distribution network that exists here with the Lowcountry Local First incubator and Grow Food Carolina are providing us as chefs access to far more local product than I ever saw in Nashville, where the lack of that grass roots distribution network has driven Tyler Brown and Sean Brock to farm their own.
Charleston does not have a dedicated city market like other cities famous for their food scenes - Seattle, New York, San Francisco. Ours, sadly, is overtaken by the tourist trade and that would require monumental changes to put anything right, and some serious elbow grease from Mr. Holliday. Nashville does have such a dedicated space. It's a great space and a great fit, but it lacks content. I can't tell you how many times I saw empty market spaces, the vendors who were there selling unboxed Florida tomatoes in February.
Nashville has access to great food artisans - Olive and Sinclair, Cruze Farm Dairy, Alan Benton's porky goodness, as do we. The difference between the two is in TN what they're doing with product vs the diversity and growing season we see here, not to mention our access to some of the freshest fish. Period..
In short, we may have reached a tipping point of sorts with our scene here, but I have serious reservations that Music City will ever eclipse the Holy City in the dining arena. But we do need to be good neighbors, and who knows? Perhaps if we can help our cousins to the west to develop their dining options, they, in return, may help us book a broader and more consistent selection of national music acts.
It's worth a shot. Bob Waggoner went back last year, now Sean Brock. So, who's going to book Dead Weather and the Time Jumpers in to the Music Farm?
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