Back in July, La Tourelle, Memphis' bastion of French cuisine, closed its doors after 30 years. Although Glenn and Martha Hays, who also own Café 1912, had thought about selling the business, they decided to hang on, shift the culinary focus, and update the interior. In August, they opened the Italian restaurant, Tuscany. Ultimately, however, the couple decided to sell the restaurant after all.
"Every business has its own cycle," says Glenn. "We have gone through many changes with La Tourelle and realized that it was time to let go."
The new owner of the restaurant stumbled upon the opportunity by accident in September.
"I was in the area for the Ole Miss/Florida game," says Kelly English, an Ole Miss graduate. "On Sunday, I went to Café 1912 for a birthday brunch, and Glenn mentioned that he wanted to sell Tuscany." Little did Hays know that English was looking for a place to open his own restaurant.
Attending Ole Miss to become a lawyer and cooking at Pearl Street Pasta as a college job, English knew he had to change his career plans after a semester in Barcelona.
"The food culture there is very different," he says. "I went to the market almost every day. To see and taste all this amazing food was a life-changing experience."
After graduating from Ole Miss with a degree in hospitality management, English, who is a New Orleans native, went on to get his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Since then, he's worked exclusively with John Besh at his Restaurant August in New Orleans, at the Besh outpost N'awlins at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, and, most recently, at Lüke, Besh's latest New Orleans eatery, which opened in May.
Although still working at Lüke, English plans to be in Memphis by mid-November and to open his restaurant in early January.
"We will do some changes to the interior, but people shouldn't expect a forklift in front of the building," he says. "We aren't trying to erase La Tourelle's legacy. We want to acknowledge it while establishing our own identity."
The food will definitely show English's New Orleans roots and influences but will also incorporate items from other cultures.
Hays will remain the restaurant's gardener, a point about which he was adamant. But the new owner might have one request: an abundance of irises. Restaurant Iris is the name English has chosen. The name honors both his hometown New Orleans, which is associated with the fleur-de-lis (a stylized design of an iris flower), and his new home state Tennessee, which designated the iris as the state flower in 1933.
It is time again for Chef Wally Joe's annual star-chef-studded benefit dinner, which is being held at KC's, his family's restaurant in Cleveland, Mississippi, on Sunday, November 11th. While the Wally Joe and Friends dinner has raised money for the James Beard Foundation in the past, Joe decided to look closer to home for this year's beneficiary: St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
"Many of us have kids, and the people at St. Jude do amazing work that can change the lives of so many children," Joe explains.
Several nationally acclaimed chefs will be preparing the six-course dinner. Among them are Don Yamauchi, executive chef at Tribute in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which has consistently earned the highest accolades from experts, including Gourmet, The New York Times, and Wine Spectator; recent James Beard best chef Midwest award-winner Celina Tio of the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri; and Shaun Doty, whose career has spanned the globe but whose passion lies in creating simple and contemporary bistro fare at Shaun's in Atlanta's historic Inman Park.
Cost for the dinner is $150 per person plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 662-843-5301.
KC's Restaurant, 400 Highway 61 N., Cleveland, Mississippi