Have you always wanted to become a chef? What inspired you to get started on this path?
When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to spend a summer living with a family in Burgundy, France. The town, Chalone-sur-Saone, was small and welcoming and neighbors took time to teach me about their culture. We cooked from the garden and drank wine with local producers, we played petanques and celebrated Bastille Day. This experience piqued my interest in food and I started cooking, at home for friends. The following year, when I started college in New Orleans, the historic restaurants and rich cultural heritage really set me on my path. I majored in business, started working in restaurants, applied to culinary school, and the rest is history.
You’ve worked at some high-profile spots! Not including your own, what was the most exciting restaurant you worked at?
That’s a tough question – they were all exciting for different reasons! Working under Jonathan Benno at Per Se was a thrilling experience for a young chef. He ran the kitchen like a ship. We expedited over 900 plates every night in beautiful synchronicity. The team was exceedingly talented and now run some of the best restaurants in the world. Everyone was motivated and working for a common cause. I’ve never seen anything else quite like it.
You’re a native of Nashville, which is where your restaurant Henrietta Red is located. How did growing up there help shape the restaurant?
Being from Nashville, we were careful to open something we could really stand behind. We wanted to ensure the space and the menu added something to the restaurant landscape. Nashville is booming so lots of restaurants open and many close shortly after – you have to have great intention with every detail or you risk missing the mark. I love being in my home town. Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone that I recognize in the dining room. It feels wonderful to know that the community shows up for us, just like we showed up for them.
You’ve recently decided to transition in the catering business. Can you tell us what pushed you to make the change from restaurants to catering?
I’ve always enjoyed catering and used it as a way to earn extra income between restaurant jobs. I love being a part of events and celebrations – they really allow you an opportunity to connect with guests in a way that isn’t possible at a restaurant. When I was thinking about ways that my team and I could grow in Nashville, it was the obvious next step. I love it and it allows us to see what we can do without the constraints of four walls or a restaurant concept.
What was the inspiration behind The Party Line?
The name ‘The Party Line’ is a bit tongue-in-cheek, in this political climate, but it has various playful undertones depending on how you interpret it. I wanted the brand to feel fun and current. When I think about how to cook food for an event, I try not to think about how other caterers might do it, but how best to execute it with a restaurant brain – so that it’s outstanding when it hits the table. We approached the branding the same way, which means we may have to convince some clients to trust us but if they take a chance, we know they’ll be back for more.
What has been the biggest challenge for you with The Party Line?
Catering is an entirely different animal than a restaurant. When we opened Henrietta Red, we were able to see the hurdles that made service challenging and improve incrementally each night. Every catered event is different and has different variables, from the client to the traffic, so the learning curve is steep and the climb is slow. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves when we feel we could have performed better so after we evaluate each event, we try to take a step back and reflect on the big picture.
Now that we’ve covered how much you love to cook for other people, what is your favorite thing to cook for yourself?
I’m a pasta lover and so many great pasta dishes can be made with pantry staples. Like puttanesca – add tomato paste, canned San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, capers, castelvetrano olives, preserved lemon, anchovies, and red chili flake – voila! Or carbonara – add bacon, egg yolk, cream, black pepper, and pecorino – bon appetite! Such a satisfying meal without additional trips to the store. I’ll typically have a seasonal salad and red wine with my big bowl of pasta and call it a night!
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