David Todd, the newish chef of Interim, has a tattoo of a hamburger and hotdog robbing a bank. To him, it means "grub life," as if to say this path is inevitable. He also has another tattoo of a cat DJing and spinning a pizza, so there's that too.
But back to that "grub life" thing, Todd says he's spent the last 22 years (he's 40) working in various restaurants — both high- and low-end — all around town. He was recommended to the Interim job by the restaurant's former chef David Krog.
- Photographs by Justin Fox Burks
- David Todd
"I told [the owners] I absolutely, 100 percent can do this job. They had heard good things," he says. "We had a conversation about food, my vision of food. It went from there."
Todd, who's been at Interim now about three months, says it took some time for his culinary vision to gel, but maturity and sobriety helped him focus on the number one thing for him: flavor.
Todd says he's got the taste version of photographic memory, so he can match up flavors of things he's eaten sometimes years apart.
- Interim’s new Duck BBQ sandwich
It's helped him punch up Interim's menu, with such dishes as the Duck BBQ sandwich, with duck confit, golden raisin barbecue sauce, kale slaw, and a pretzel bun. "It's Memphis in a nutshell," he says. "It's fancy, but it's barbecue."
- Interim’s new Braised Short Rib
Another Todd original is the Braised Short Rib with sweet potato, carrot puree, haricot vert, honey-thyme demi-glace.
A couple dishes he didn't touch were the Mac & Cheese Casserole and the Crispy Gulf Oysters. That was part of the owner's edict to stabilize and reconnect. Meaning, Todd brought consistency to the restaurant. For example, that beloved Mac & Cheese did not have a set recipe. He created one. As far as reconnecting, Todd vowed to make his existing customers happy, while energizing his new customers.
He also had to connect with his new staff. He was well aware he was the third chef at Interim in a year. "You have to treat people with respect, put in the hours," he says.
One staffer he turned to was pastry chef Franck Oysel, whom he calls Interim's biggest asset and a great sounding board. Todd consulted with Oysel on the menu. Oysel dissuaded him from certain items and convinced him to bring back mussels. Todd's flourish was to serve those mussels in a coconut curry.
Todd is giving his all into this latest gig. "For me," he says, "it's like cracking my chest open and putting my heart out there."
Interim, 5040 Sanderlin, (818-0821), interimrestaurant.com
When Wayne Lumsden transferred from New York to Memphis for his job, he really didn't know too much about the city. In fact, he was expecting mountains. But, soon enough, Lumsden, a Jamaican native, settled in and founded the Caribbean Association of Memphis.
His fellow Jamaicans like the dishes at Evelyn & Olive, though they felt they could use some tuning up. That's what Lumsden has been doing since he took over ownership at the restaurant from Tony Hall and Vicki Newsum in June. He owns the restaurant with his wife, Caroline.
Fans (like me) shouldn't worry too much. The menu is the same. That terrific Rasta Pasta is still there, as are the popular oxtails and grilled jerk shrimp. Lumsden defines the menu as "American/Jamaican."
Lumsden says he's been tweaking the spices and working on the method of cooking to make the meals a bit more authentic. He says Jamaican cooking is mostly stovetop. "It's stuff we ate as a kid," he says.
Some of the true Jamaican fare he plans on offering soon: coconut steamed salmon and Caribbean fried chicken. For winter, he's really going to up the game. "You wouldn't believe," he says, as he describes soups with chicken feet and goat's head.
Lumsden says he's got a regular clientele from the Evelyn & Olive regulars; he'd like to build on that. He's using the restaurant's original menu, making it more authentic. "Your favorite things got better," he says.
Evelyn & Olive, 630 Madison, (748-5422) evelynandolive.com