The Food Biz: Daughters in Germantown

Chef Philip Krajeck preps restaurant for Werthan Lofts space

The Werthan Lofts, the high-profile redevelopment turning the 100-year-old Werthan factory building in Germantown into an “eclectic and vibrant urban community,” is getting an equally ambitious restaurant neighbor. It’s called Rolf and Daughters, and it’s taking over the Boiler Building (pictured) that long ago provided power for the factory.

It’s the project of chef Philip Krajeck, who has an impressive resume that includes a few years at Fish Out of Water, the restaurant at the posh WaterColor Inn in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., where he landed on the list of James Beard Foundation nominees for Best Chef in the South.

At a time when many chefs talk of melding Southern foodways and ingredients with Continental-style standards of preparation, Krajeck seems especially suited for that philosophy.

He was an American kid who grew up in Brussels, Belgium, where his father worked for NATO. His education included a high-end hotelier school in Switzerland (where he trained in French culinary methods with a cohort of Italians who whipped up “really pristine classic Italian dishes” for the staff meal) but he also studied at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Later he did educational stints (chefs describe these using the French word stage) at places like Blue Hill Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern in New York.

Krajeck said he’s been working toward opening his own place in Nashville for three years. The restaurant name was especially tricky to brainstorm, he said. In the end, he chose Rolf and Daughters — his middle name is Rolf, and he has two daughters, ages 12 and 14 — because the generational name invokes an Old World, heritage feel.

Krajeck doesn’t like to pigeonhole his cuisine as French, Italian, Southern, etc., but he says it’s “a byproduct of all the experiences I’ve had.”

One phrase he does use is “modern peasant food,” which he describes as “commonsense, thoughtful cooking rooted in a passion for the best ingredients and a passion for the best techniques.”

Speaking of ingredients, Krajeck said an important component of the cuisine is his partnership with Lauren and Paschal Jennings of Bloomsbury Farm near Smyrna, which is providing produce of all sorts. They’re even trying a long-term experiment: inoculating oak trees with spores in hopes of someday harvesting truffles.

As for beverages, Krajeck said the wine list will be small but carefully curated, with an emphasis on European vintages along with “some fun American wines.” He added, “I grew up in Belgium, so there’s definitely going to be good beer.” And look for a menu of cocktails, too.

Krajeck said friends, designers and architects are pitching in to help transform the old Boiler Building into a fun, stylish restaurant that will seat about 75 indoors and eventually more on the patio. “We wanted a space that had a lot of character,” he said — and this one has 18-foot ceilings, exposed brick and concrete, and “beautiful iron windows” across the front facade. “This is the best possible second life for this building,” Krajeck said.

Rolf and Daughters is expected to open in late fall at 700 Taylor St. For updates, follow Rolf and Daughters on Facebook.

 

We can expect to hear more about this in the future, but a group of activists is working hard to launch a nonprofit “food hub” in Nashville next month. Food hubs, which already exist in dozens of cities, assist small local farms by providing them with services to help them market their products. In this case, that means launching an online store to connect Nashville-area farms with restaurants and renting refrigerated space at the Nashville Farmers’ Market where produce can be stored for pick-up by restaurant customers.

The project is called Nashville Grown, and organizers hope the system will go live near the beginning of September. I first heard about it from Laura Wilson of the Grow Local Kitchen at the Farmers’ Market. As a chef, she knows firsthand how eager restaurants are to secure fresh produce but how difficult the logistics are when it comes to connecting chefs and farmers. “They both work 60-hour weeks already, and they’re on opposite schedules,” Wilson said.

Wilson is serving as a volunteer consultant for Nashville Grown. Another key person is Sarah Johnson, a 2009 Stanford University grad who studied international food policy in Washington, D.C., before moving to Nashville to work on urban food initiatives here.

Also active in the project are Jenny Vaughn Harrison of FEAST Together, which works to create community kitchens in Nashville, and a very popular figure in the local produce movement in Nashville, Alan Powell, who’s been bringing farmers and restaurants together for six years. (He’s like a one-man food hub himself.)

Johnson said Nashville Grown has many more projects to launch down the road, but right now they’re focused on activating the website by Sept. 3. She’s also still looking to hear from restaurants, farms (with less than 100 cultivated acres located within 100 miles of Nashville) and anybody willing to help with time or donations. For more info, email her at sarah@nashvillegrown.org or visit the website at nashvillegrown.org

 

Rumba, which has operated on West End for 10 years, will close when its lease ends on Sept. 30, owner Tom Sheffer told me this week. He added that he hopes to launch another Nashville-area restaurant in the future. Some of Rumba’s most popular items — including the much-loved mojitos — will migrate to the menu at sister restaurant Jackson’s.