This will make for a lot of culinary talent in the same room.
Nick Sullivan, who recently left his post as chef de cuisine at The Oakroom, and formerly longtime chef de cuisine at 610 Magnolia, will join Geoffrey Heyde in the kitchen at Fork & Barrel, when it opens in early spring.
Heyde, the longtime executive chef at Village Anchor Pub & Roost, who last was executive chef at SET, is the owner of Fork & Barrel, which is under construction in the spot held by Basa Modern Vietnamese at 2244 Frankfort Ave. in Clifton. Eat Drink Talk broke the story of the new ownership in January.
Heyde said he’d interviewed a lot of candidates for the job, but that Sullivan’s application stood out as much as it gave him pause. With experience in the high-end restaurants listed above, not to mention time at Corbett’s: An American Place, Heyde wondered whether Sullivan would enjoy cooking the intentionally non-pretentious American food set to populate Fork & Barrel’s menu.
“I really was hesitant at first—his creativity is outside the box, it’s awesome,” Heyde said. “I was wondering if our visions would mesh. But we’ve met probably three or four times, and I really think they’re going to.”
In his first effort as a restaurant operator, Heyde also wanted a strong personality in the kitchen, someone who could lead the crew and execute plans to his standards while he’s involved in all areas of the business.
“I need a leader, not a follower, and that’s what I really saw in Nick,” he said. “I want somebody to bounce ideas off of and challenge me as I want to challenge him.
“I’m still going to be very much in charge of the kitchen and in there more than not, but I think we’ll work well together.”
Since leaving SET some time ago, Heyde said he’s missed the culinary collaboration of the kitchen, but that Sullivan is already filling that gap. He said the two are already feeding off each other with ideas for the new restaurant, as well as keeping each other informed on larger culinary issues.
“I’ve really missed … those conversations about what’s happening outside of here, talking about trends, what’s happening in other cities, and what we do in Louisville,” he said.
Eat Drink Talk reached out to Sullivan for comment, but he did not respond by press time.
Before Heyde hired Sullivan, he asked him about his professional goals. Knowing Sullivan’s talent level and desire to have his own restaurant, he wanted to be sure the chef was going to stay a while before seizing the next opportunity that arrived.
“He said realistically he’d be here for a couple of years,” Heyde said. “He said he wants to learn as much from me as I want to learn from him.”
Heyde said the projected late March opening of Fork & Barrel remains largely on course. He expected the changeover from Basa would produce some delays, such as the cumbersome and costly update of a new grease trap, but that no major roadblocks have appeared.
“Even though it was a restaurant beforehand, we definitely had to think about changing the décor and the organization and flow of the restaurant to optimize it to its fullest potential for what we’re doing,” he said. “That and the grease trap might have set us back some, but nothing significant or really unexpected.”