The Food Biz: ‘One more arrow’

TomKats group impresario promises steak, oysters and some ‘fun for the foodie’ at Pinnacle restaurant [From our print edition in this week’s City Paper]

TomKats, the food and entertainment empire that includes the Loveless Motel and its adjacent Loveless Barn music venue, the Fontanel complex, Saffire restaurant in Franklin, and a vast catering business that serves both local customers and movie sets around the world, is marking its 25th year in business by opening an ambitious new restaurant downtown — in the ground level of the 29-story Pinnacle at Symphony Place.

Construction began this month on the restaurant, named “the southern steak and oyster” (the lack of capitalization is intentional). TomKats kingpin Tom Morales calls the project the culmination of everything he’s learned serving all kinds of people in all kinds of places.

That would include Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin while they film 30 Rock, Sarah Jessica Parker and the ladies of Sex and the City, the cast and crew of movies like The Devil Wears Prada, The Help and the upcoming Footloose remake. Some movie shoots have taken place in remote locations like a decrepit asylum in South Carolina (Chattahoochee) or the rugged altitudes of the West (City Slickers). TomKats’ job requires satisfying people with widely varied tastes, from macrobiotic vegetarian to militantly meat-and-potatoes.

“You’ve got to listen, and treat everybody with respect,” Morales said.

As a federally certified disaster caterer, TomKats has provided meals for 9/11 rescuers and victims of Hurricane Katrina. “You learn to think on your feet,” he said.

Now what Morales wants to do is create a really fine, locally owned restaurant in downtown Nashville that will be a welcoming destination for everyone.

“I’ve got one more arrow in my quiver, and I’m going to use it to do something downtown for Nashville to be proud of,” he said.

As for the menu, “The center will be accessible, and the edges will be fun for the foodie,” Morales said. He promises a lot of menu variety, but as the restaurant name indicates, steak and oysters are featured prominently.

The front dining room will be circular, with a New Orleans-style oyster bar in the center. There will also be a more secluded dining room in back that can be used for private events. The whole place will seat 220, with additional seating in a patio fronting Third Avenue.

The Pinnacle building seems ideally located to cater to many aspects of downtown culture, with a direct view of Schermerhorn Symphony Center, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Music City Center. To capture every bit of that energy, the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and expects to have a bustling bar.

Seab Tuck of Tuck/Hinton and David LeFeve of IKON Construction lead the team building the restaurant, with opening planned for sometime in January.

A cheesy festival

Kathleen Cotter, who searches for the country’s best artisan cheeses to sell at the Nashville Farmers’ Market under her business name The Bloomy Rind, says it’s a little-known fact that some extraordinary cheeses are being produced right here in the South.

To get out the word, Cotter has created a savory new food event, The Southern Artisan Cheese Festival, which takes place 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at the Farmers’ Market.

More than 30 prominent cheesemakers, craft brewers and other food artisans from around the South will convene on Nashville for the event. Festivalgoers will get to sample all the wares while learning from the artisans themselves about the hard work (and fun) of crafting fine food.

Tickets that include food, wine and beer are $40; folks who don’t want alcohol pay $20. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and the American Cheese Society Education Foundation. Buy your ticket in advance and get $5 toward buying some of the products to take home. On the day of the fest, if any tickets are left, they’ll cost $50 and $30 but won’t include the $5 voucher.

Get tickets and info at bloomyrind.com.