Tupelo Honey Café’s new vice president of culinary and four-time James Beard Award nominee, Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, has never lived outside of New York state.
He’s pretty much uninitiated in Southern culture, but he knows one thing — there’s a respect for ingredients in Southern cooking that the rest of the country has lost.
“I think people in the South have the same respect for food as people in Europe do,” Gabrynowicz says. “They are proud of what they put on a plate. That’s how I think every day.”
On his third day on the job in Asheville, where the restaurant group is based, Gabrynowicz was in the test kitchen, working on specials that will be served at all locations. Two of those that will be available in Greenville are a pork cheek braised in local apple cider and a monk or sea bass filet wrapped in country ham and roasted.
Gabrynowicz says he’s planning to tweak some current menu items by making some typically heavy Southern favorites lighter and healthier while still staying loyal to Southern food philosophy.
He says Tupelo Honey has been on his radar since it opened in Asheville in 2000.
“I’ve always known about responsibly sourcing ingredients,” Gabrynowicz says. “And they’ve always been at the forefront.”
Tupelo Honey Cafe CEO Steve Frabitore says they are looking forward to seeing where Gabrynowicz will take their food.
“We share a similar philosophy around a responsibly sourced and flavor driven menu, which makes this partnership especially exciting for our menu and our guests,” he says.
Gabrynowicz says it was a natural fit for him to move from being executive chef and partner of Restaurant North, a farm to table driven concept in Upstate New York, to this new position in Asheville that will allow him more time in the kitchen.
He says it’s common knowledge in the restaurant business that if you are an owner, you’ll spend more time being the accountant and the janitor than you will in the kitchen. “I’m looking forward to reconnecting with cooking,” Gabrynowicz says.
Gabrynowicz will be overseeing menu development and culinary operations of Tupelo Honey’s 13 locations, with the potential for some extra involvement with the downtown Greenville location because it is currently without an executive chef.
Gabrynowicz says being involved in the hiring process for Greenville will allow him to personally train and bring up the new chef in the Tupelo Honey tradition of honest, simple food.
He will also be co-authoring Tupelo’s third cookbook along with vice president of operations, E. Tyler Alford and writer Elizabeth Sims. The cookbook will focus on social gatherings and Southern entertaining, featuring 60 craft cocktail recipes as well as 40 small plates for entertaining.