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Meet The Chefs

Get To Know The People Behind Incredible Food

Food, like music, is a part of culture. It nourishes bodies and feeds souls. Fortunately, there are plenty of talented chefs in the Nashville region who create many, varied meals to enjoy.

Here, Brentwood Lifestyle shares details about four of these local, culinary masters who love what they do, and love doing it for others. Although they may have diverse backgrounds and skill sets, the end result is the same: dishes that delight every time.  

Deb Paquette

While in college, Deb Paquette says she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. When she came across information about the Culinary Institute of America, she knew instantly what that was. “My heart rate boomed as I pictured myself as a chef on a ship, hotel or even a four-star restaurant,” she says.

After graduating from the institute, her first job was in a macrobiotic restaurant in New York City. “My mom managed a health food store, so our family was on top of taking our vitamins and eating carob cookies,” she says. After a year, she moved home to Florida to attend Florida International University and earned a management degree. “I finished school and found my way to Nashville in 1982. I accepted a job as banquet chef at the Hyatt Regency. Yes, I was on my way!”

Deb became the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef, and has since won countless awards and accolades.

Food, she says, can be both simple and complex. “I love the diversity. I love that I have the ability to inspire guests to reverse their fears of trying new foods. I love how condiments, herbs, spices, salt and sugar can change one simple carrot into a piece of art. So many different species of fruits and veggies have been brought back to our tables. Education and the science of food have made a huge difference in our decisions of meal planning. The food world is unstoppable.”

Today, she oversees the kitchen at etch, a globally-inspired restaurant located in Nashville, as well as its sister restaurant, etc. “We like to challenge the palate,” says Deb. “We also have incredible service and a great location. Quality food, service and atmosphere are the three keys to a happy restaurant.”

While being a chef is hard work, she does have advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps. “Balancing kitchen life with home life may be difficult. Long hours can be necessary, but make time to spend with your family and friends. They are your greatest supporters!”

etc.restaurant

Margot McCormack

For Margot McCormack, hanging out with her mom in the kitchen was the initial inspiration for her career as a chef. Later, she would build on that foundation by graduating from the Culinary Institute of America.

Today, she owns Margot Café and Bar, a French-inspired restaurant with Southern influences in Nashville. “Our menu changes every day,” she says. “We put our ideas down, based on buying the best ingredients from our farmers and purveyors. The weather and the season play the next part in the development. We have a lens which we formulate everything through. My chef, Hadley Long, calls it the ‘Margot lens.’ It helps define everything we do.”

While she loves to test out new things in the kitchen, the restaurant doesn’t try to be trendy. “The fact that our menu changes every day informs our decisions if we continue on with an ingredient or an idea,” she says.

Margot believes food is not just about pleasure but also about sustenance and nourishment, not only for the body but also the soul. “It’s inspiring to realize the impact you can have on people’s lives with a plate of food. Definitely the most rewarding part of the job is the relationships and connections I have formed with the guests, the staff and our family of craftspeople.”

While pleasing others is wonderful, she also believes it’s important to take care of yourself. “Getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating well, exercising and managing your own stress is key,” she says.

Even after all these years, she still finds a lot of joy in being a chef. “I love to work hard and think that what I get to do every day is fun,” says Margot.

MargotCafe.com

Chuck White

After graduating from the Opryland Hotel Culinary Institute, Chuck White says he honed his skills first in Nashville and then in Colorado, where he eventually became a sous chef in a five-star, five-diamond restaurant. But, upon returning to Nashville, even more exciting things were on the horizon.

In 2008, he joined Sheryl Crow and John Mayer on tour as their personal chef. When the tour ended, he continued to cook for Sheryl while launching his private chef business. He found his summers being spent on tours cooking for musicians, such as the Jonas Brothers and Kid Rock, as well as big acts like WWE and Cirque Du Soleil.

When not on tour, Chuck’s niche became cooking for those with special diets. This led to him being hired full time by Sheryl while on tour to cook with foods to help with cancer prevention. They also collaborated on the New York Times bestselling cookbook, If It Makes You Healthy.

Today, he cooks primarily for people who are focusing on their health and/or fighting illnesses. “My specialty is to take comfort foods and put a really healthy spin on them by using cleaner ingredients and trying to stay away from animal products.”

Chuck finds it rewarding to help others by providing them with healthy dishes that also delight. “Finding joy in someone else's joy, and even going a step further, to work with a client who is ill and through food, hopefully getting them better, is great.”

After being a chef for 24 years, he enjoys being able to pick and choose what he does and how he cooks. It’s very different from his time spent in restaurant kitchens, he assures.

“It's a pressure cooker; there's a lot of stress,” he says. “You have to love food and love what you do.”

ChefChuck.com

 

Julia Sullivan

As a high school student, Julia Sullivan spent two summers abroad. “The first time I was in France and living with a family that grew their own food, cooked at home and lived among vineyards, so I became intrigued with the world of food and wine,” she says.

Later, as a college student in New Orleans, she started pursuing a career in food. “The whole scene there was so vibrant and had so much history and cultural heritage that it really got me excited about the restaurant world. I started working in restaurants and then eventually decided to pursue culinary school.”

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Julia went on to cook for many acclaimed restaurants, and was named one of the Best Young Chefs in America by Robb Report and by Food & Wine, and was recognized as a 2019 semifinalist and a 2020 finalist in the James Beard Foundation Awards Best Chef in its Southeast category.

Since 2017, she has co-owned Henrietta Red in Nashville, which has been recognized by Bon Appetit and GQ, and was a James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist.  

“We have a wonderful team at the restaurant and we really approach our dishes as seasonally as possible depending on what’s available from the local farmer's market and the food hub,” says Julia.  

The restaurant is also known for its amazing oyster bar. “I still find that so exciting and the relationships with our growers and farmers are so rewarding,” she says. “Just getting to know what they do and seeing the kind of innovation and progress happening in Southern aquaculture is so exciting. I also just really love working with people.”

HenriettaRed.com

“I love the diversity. I love that I have the ability to inspire guests to reverse their fears of trying new foods. I love how condiments, herbs, spices, salt and sugar can change one simple carrot into a piece of art."

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