Chip Dunham's given name is Jeffrey, just like his dad, Jeffrey Dunham, the chef/owner of Grove Grill. In fact, "Chip," is short for, as it often is in these cases, "chip off the old block."
One could make a pretty good argument that this is certainly the case for Chip, who was lured back to Memphis from Charleston about a year ago to take over the kitchen at Grove Grill.
Chip, who worked at such Charleston mainstays as Edmund's Oast and the Glass Onion, recalls how he first got into the biz. Of course, it was through his dad. When he was a teenager, he needed a job. The obvious plan would be that he would work at the restaurant. Maybe as a busboy. But his dad told him that "cool people cook." Chip was smitten with the idea, mainly because SpongeBob SquarePants was a cook.
Chip went away to culinary school and then off to Charleston.
As he explains it, he and his dad talk every day. The senior Dunham was telling the junior Dunham about the restaurant's new decor and how the place needed a new vibe, something to shake things up at the restaurant, which had recently marked its 20th year.
"I wasn't sold on it," admits Chip.
But the idea of a new challenge made sense to him.
It took him about six months to feel at home. He calls his dad's style traditional, while he would describe his cooking as encompassing refined techniques in a sort of country brasseries style. He's started to make his mark on the menu, with dishes such as the Grilled Peaches and Heirloom Tomatoes. As Chip notes, the menu already had a grilled peach salad, but the new one is a more imaginative take with whipped feta spread on the plate and locally grown micro-arugula.
Another Chiptastic dish is the House Made Charcuterie Board, where everything is made in-house — salami, duck liver mousse, country ham, etc.
One thing Chip would like to do in his new role is TNT the old concept of Grove Grill, maybe draw some younger folks.
"I think people forget about us," he says. "We've been around so long."
He feels that folks view it as stuffy and expensive, which is not the case, he says.
To combat that idea, Grove Grill recently started hosting an open house series called Third Thursdays. It features craft cocktails, local beers, and fine wines as well as a selection of seasonal small plates. The next Third Thursday is August 16th.
Chip is particularly proud of the bar, which is his wife Amanda's domain.
For now, Chip says he's "pretty content."
He says, "I'm excited to see how it goes."
Grove Grill, 4550 Poplar, 818-9951, thegrovegrill.com
About eight months ago, Michael Tauer, a principal of Bounty on Broad, reached out to Mason Jambon. It seems that the ardor for the once white-hot restaurant, located in the Binghampton district, had cooled.
The first thing that Jambon suggested was that they ditch the gluten-free menu. He laughs at the memory. He was told that was off the table. So, he had dinner.
"It was the best meal I've had here in Memphis," he recalls.
Jambon's approach was to double-down on the restaurant. Where others may have cut staff and expenses to make up for lost profits, Jambon insisted that they invest in them. They rehabbed the bar and stocked up on expensive wines. They redid the craft cocktail menu and started holding special dinners like After the Hunt, which featured dishes of game meat.
Jambon flat-out calls Bounty chef Russell Casey an artist. Casey took over after Bounty founder Jackson Kramer left town. In his wake, he found he had to contend with the cult of Jackson Kramer.
Whereas Kramer liked to challenge people, Casey was more approachable with his food. But, he dared not touch the dishes that made Bounty's name. So while you'll still find those famous Pommes Frites, you can also order Casey's Eggplant Lasagne, white wine-poached flounder, etouffee, and the Plum Sauce marinated Pork Tenderloin.
Casey says he liked to "build things from the bottom up." He says he works with Indian influences using French techniques.
Next up, they're planning on converting the old butchery into a private dining space.
All this effort seems to be working. Sales are up.
"We were giving people what they want," says Jambon.
Bounty on Broad, 2519 Broad, 410-8131, bountyonbroad.com